Raymond McCreesh park: Council say it is a ‘surplus asset’

Raymond McCreesh Park

Debates over the name of Raymond McCreesh Park have gone on since it was opened in 2001

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has decided to sell a Newry play park named after an IRA hunger striker.
The council said Raymond McCreesh Park is now “surplus to requirements”.

Other public bodies will now have first refusal on the Patrick Street site. Its name will be a matter for its new owner.
The name of the park had led to a long-running dispute in the area. Unionists demanded the name be changed, while republicans insisted it be retained.

SDLP councillors were caught in the middle.
Originally named Patrick Street Play Park, it was renamed in 2001.
‘Surplus asset’
Following a report into play facilities in the area, an agreement was made on Monday night to dispose of the site.

SDLP Councillor Michael Savage told BBC News NI: “The decision was taken, after a number of months looking at play park provision in this area, that McCreesh Park, based on the low score that it came up with as part of that independent process, would be surplus to requirements for the council.
“It would then be earmarked as a surplus asset.”

Raymond McCreesh

Raymond McCreesh died on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981
The council now plans to build a new play facility on Doran’s Hill, which runs alongside the existing park.

There are also plans to build 200 homes nearby.
Raymond McCreesh Park
Image caption
Local residents say there is ongoing anti-social behaviour in the area
Sinn Féin, which has an office on the same street as the park, is unhappy with the decision.

Newry councillor Liz Kimmins proposed the council reverse the decision to sell and carry out a community consultation, but this was voted down by the other parties.
“The people in the Ballybot and Barcroft areas areas have strongly supported the name to stay,” she said.
“This issue has not been resolved.

“The SDLP, Alliance and unionist parties have voted to refuse the community their say on the future of Raymond McCreesh Park and instead put it up for sale.”

‘Summer from hell’
However, some residents in the area support the decision – not necessarily because of the park’s name, but rather because of the poor condition of its facilities and ongoing anti-social behaviour in the area.
Newry woman Sheila Hughes said she had had “the summer from hell” living near the park.
“They’re spilling up the steps at the back of the park into where the houses are and they won’t move,” she said.
“It’s hard when you don’t have anywhere else to send them or anywhere else for them to go.”

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.

McCreesh Park decision prompts further spat amongst councillors

The decision by Newry Mourne and down District Council to sell off the controversial Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry has led to more wrangling among councillors, with Sinn Fein accusing the SDLP of misleading people over the park’s future.

Following a report into play facilities which identified “surplus assets” in the area, an agreement was made at Monday night’s full meeting of council to dispose of the site as it is “surplus to requirements.”

Sinn Fein Councillor, Liz Kimmins, proposed to reverse the decision and put the site’s future to a community consultation. Her proposal was defeated in a Chamber vote, with SDLP Councillor, Michael Savage proposing to stick to the original recommendation and seek expressions of interest from Government Departments during a D1 disposal process.The name of the park will now be a matter for its new owner.

Originally named Patrick Street Play Park, it was renamed after IRA Hunger Striker, Raymond McCreesh in 2001. The naming of the park led to a protracted dispute, with Unionists demanding the name be changed, whilst Sinn Fein argued to retain the name.

Following Monday night’s meeting, Ms Kimmins said the decision to dispose of the park “reinforced the belief of most that SDLP have a stated objective of rejecting the democratic decision of the people of the area to name this community asset after Raymond McCreesh.”

She said the ratification of the Council’s Play Strategy review at the full council meeting last month had recommended McCreesh Park alone for the D1 process, out of 10 parks in the district which fell below play value set out by the categorisation developed by Playboard NI.

“There was no rush from the SDLP to dispose of any of the others as disposal was not part of this process, a fact which was confirmed by council officials at the most recent meeting,” said Ms Kimmins. The Sinn Féin elected representative also disputed Councillor Savage’s claims that he carried out an audit in the area which supported the disposal of the park and the site to be used for housing.

“No one that I have spoken to in Ballybot or Barcroft has had any engagement with Cllr Savage on this issue,” she said, calling on the SDLP Councillor to “present evidence of his alleged community audit.”

“The attempt by other parties in the Council to force through the disposal of Raymond McCreesh Park without local consultation is an attempt to eradicate the name of Raymond McCreesh from the area.Cllr Savage and the SDLP should be honest with the people of Ballybot and Barcroft as to what their real intentions are,” demanded the Sinn Fein Councillor before pledging her party’s opposition “to any move in the Council to deprive the people of the area of the right to decide on the future use of this community asset”.

The Barcroft Community Association (BCA) has also challenged Mr Savage about his audit claims. BCA Chairperson, Darren Thompson, accused the SDLP Councillor of making “unsupported claims that he called to every house in Barcroft and Ballybot and surveyed residents about the future of Raymond McCreesh Play park.”

Mr Thompson said committee members have spoken with over 30 residents “and none of them were contacted by Councillor Savage.”

“Michael Savage has shown a total lack of respect for the people of Barcroft and neighbouring areas with regards to the alleged ‘audit’,” he added, accusing Mr Savage of using the local community as “pawns”, in “a cheap election gimmick.”

Meanwhile Mr Savage hit back and accused Sinn Fein of dishonesty over McCreesh Park. The SDLP Councillorsaid the local community will be “fully consulted” on the future of the park when viable options that can be funded and benefit the people of the area are identified.

“Anyone who I have worked for and been in contact with in the Ballybot and Barcroft area know that I have been open and honest with them about the future of the park,” insisted Mr Savage.

“Contrary to what Cllr Kimmins believes, I have knocked the doors in the area and provided residents with an update on the park and had many doorstep discussions with residents on the future of play provision in the area. I was open and honest with them about the process and I have remained true to that.”

He said Cllr Kimmins was fully aware that McCreesh Park had been identified as a surplus asset at a previous Active, Healthy Communities committee meeting,and that “To come along now and cry foul and hide behind a call for community consultation is being disingenuous to the people of the area.”

“We have agreed to seek expressions of interest from Government Departments to see if they can come up with schemes for the park that are a benefit to the local community under the D1 process,” he explained.

“During this process the local community will be asked to give their views on the options available and if the Council and the community believe any of the proposals are a good fit, then we will progress them.

“I am disappointed that Cllr Kimmins and her party have decided to play last minute political party games to try and mask their involvement in and approval of this process at every step.”

With many thanks to: The Examiner for the original posting.

Today marks the anniversary of 2 brave sons of Ireland.

Irish Political hostages on hunger strike,Volunteer Patsy O Hara (inla) and Volunteer Ray Mccreesh (ira) …both men went on hunger strike together,they both died on may 21st, 1981 after 61 days on hunger strike,side by side till the last breath,
We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference,oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men. They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it.

I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come – Patsy O Hara (I.N.L.A Hungerstriker) 
Both men paid the ultimate price for their dedication,courage and beliefs.We remember them as ordinary men who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times,

Gone but never forgotten Cuz,

Rest in Power,Glory to your soul ❤

With many thanks to: Brònzy Hegerty

The Long Kesh Hunger Strike, in which 10 IRA/INLA volunteers died, was called off at 3:15pm on 3rd October 1981.

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Oglaigh na hEireann Kieran Doherty, Died August 2nd 1981 ~ Rest in Peace

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Óglaigh Na HÉireann

A dedicated republican and an outstanding soldier

When the family, friends and former comrades of Belfast IRA Volunteer twenty-five-year-old Kieran Doherty learnt that he was joining the H-Block hunger strike, as a replacement for Raymond McCreesh, it came as no surprise to them.

Although Kieran had spent seven of the last ten years imprisoned, his complete selflessness and his relentless dedication to the liberation struggle left no-one in any doubt that Kieran would volunteer for this terrible and lonely confrontation with British rule inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Last December he was amongst those thirty prisoners who were on hunger strike for four days prior to the ending of the original seven-strong strike.

Kieran was born on October 16th, 1955 in Andersonstown, the third son in a family of six children. His two elder brothers, Michael, aged 28, and Terence, aged 27, were interned between 1972 and 1974.

Kieran has two younger sisters, Roisin and Mairead; and his younger brother, Brendan, aged twelve, is still at school.

BACKGROUND

Kieran’s mother, Margaret, is a Catholic convert from a Protestant background. His father, Alfie Doherty, who is a floor-tiler by trade, is a well-known figure in Andersonstown.

Kieran’s paternal grandfather comes from Limavady, County Derry, and after his people moved to a house in North Belfast in the ‘twenties, they were threatened that the house was going to be burnt.

This was during the loyalist-initiated pogroms which followed partition.

They had to flee to West Belfast enacting a tragedy which was to repeat itself in front of Kieran’s eyes in the early seventies, and stir him to take action.

Alfie’s uncle, Ned Maguire, took part in the famous IRA roof-top escape from Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail on January 15th, 1943.

Ned Maguire’s son, also called Ned, and a second cousin of Kieran, was an internee in Cage S of Long Kesh in 1974, when he took part in the mass escape from the camp during which Hugh Coney was shot dead by the British army. Young Ned Maguire was one of the three who managed to reach Twinbrook before being recaptured. He is now on the blanket.

Ned’s sisters (and Kieran’s second cousins), Dorothy Maguire, aged 19, and Maura Meehan, aged 30, were shot dead by the British army on October 23rd, 1971, in a car in the Lower Falls area of Belfast. Both were members of Cumann na mBan.

Another relative of Kieran’s, his uncle, Gerry Fox, was part of the famous Crumlin Road jail ‘football team’, who escaped from the jail by climbing over the wall in 1972.

CHILDHOOD

However, Kieran’s childhood was relatively ordinary. He loved sport more than anything else, and was always out playing Gaelic football, hurling or soccer.

Kieran went to St. Theresa’s primary school, then moved to the Christian Brothers secondary school on the Glen Road, where he studied until the age of sixteen.

A keen Gaelic footballer, he won an Antrim Minor medal in 1971 for St. Theresa’s GAC.

Kieran took up cycling for a while, following his brother, Michael, in St. Thomas’ cycling club. His mother recalls him taking part in a race with a faulty bicycle: “Although the chain came off at least twenty times through the race, he was so stubborn that he finished with a bronze medal.”

St. Thomas’ cycling club was later decimated by internment. Kieran, his brothers, and many other Andersonstown boys were to end up behind the wire. To such an extent, that Kieran s young brother, Brendan, asked his mother one day in 1975 when it would be his turn to go where all the ‘big boys’ were kept. Brendan was then six.

In the summer of 1971, Kieran got a job as an apprentice in heating engineering but was laid-off when the firm closed down a few months later. He worked for a while at floor-tiling with his father.

JOINED

In the meantime, however, internment had burst open the lives of many Andersonstown families. Kieran had never been interested in politics until then: nor had his family ever discussed the political situation in front of him.

Like hundreds of other boys and girls of his age, he was moved by the sight of uprooted families leaving a home in cinders behind them. As all of the evacuees were being catered for in local schools, Kieran and his brothers begged their parents to allow them to go and help. Kieran saw the British army on the streets, his friends and their families harassed. He joined na Fianna Eireann in the autumn of ’71.

Kieran proved himself to be an outstanding member of the Fianna. Reliable, quick on the job, he was obviously giving the best of himself to every task assigned him with the aim of being noticed and recruited for the IRA as quickly as was possible.

Even at this early stage of his involvement, he is remembered for his initiative and his discreet ways. Unlike some boys of his age, he never boasted about his activities.

But the British army soon noticed him too and Kieran, his family, and his home, became a target for frequent British army harassment.

On October 6th, 1972, the British army came to arrest Kieran, despite his father’s objection that Kieran was under seventeen. The Brits had checked up, they said, and after a heavy house raid they took Kieran away in the middle of the night. His father got him released eventually after waking up the sexton of St. Agnes’ chapel and obtaining Kieran’s birth certificate.

The Brits were ten days too early.

True to form, on October 16th, the British army were back in force and swamped Kieran’s district, waiting for his return from work. But relatives managed to warn him and he was driven over the border to an uncle in Limerick.

He did not much enjoy his enforced exile and, bursting to get back into action, he made his way back to Belfast at the beginning of ’73.

INTERNED

A week or so later, he was arrested, taken to Castlereagh, and then interned in Long Kesh where he spent over two years from February ’73 to November ’75. He was among the last internees released.

Always even-tempered and quiet-spoken he used his time developing his military skills.

In a letter to his mother he wrote: “They might intern all of us, but we will come out fighting.”

He made a lot of handicrafts during his two-and-a-half years in captivity.

His parents’ home displays a lot of his work, in particular a hand-carved wooden plaque commemorating Dorothy Maguire and Maura Meehan.

On the eve of his birthday in October ’74, Long Kesh prison camp was burned. When visits were eventually resumed he did not complain to his parents of brutality but just remarked jokingly on the ‘birthday party’ he had been given.

He was released from Long Kesh in November ’75, as undaunted as he sounded in his letters, and reported back to the IRA immediately. Always eager to operate, he was included in a team of Volunteers from around Rossnareen which gave the British army in Andersonstown many sleepless nights until a wave of arrests in the summer of ’76.

As the IRA/British army truce petered out at the beginning of ’76, ‘Big Doc’, as he was known by all, soon had to move out of his parents’ house. Raids were a fortnightly occurrence, at least, with furniture wrecked and floorboards lifted.

Mrs. Doherty was tidying up a first-floor bedroom after such a raid when she fell through the carpet, the floor, and partly through the sitting-room ceiling. The Brits had omitted to replace the floorboards. The scar on the ceiling can still be seen.

Many friends who met Kieran after his internment period found him extremely mature for a lad of twenty, not boisterous like most people of his age. He obviously, by then, had thought things out, made a definite choice, and assessed the dangers.

As an operator he was a perfectionist and his comrades recall feeling extremely safe with him. Even in the eventuality of things going wrong they knew Kieran would not give anything away.

ESCAPES

He had many narrow escapes.

One night, as he was shifting ‘gear’ in Andersonstown, he was chased up and down the side streets for over five minutes by two Brit landrovers.

Another time, as he was driving to a night job as security man for a firm, armed, as he often was, he drove into a British army road block.

He calmly took his tie out of his pocket, put it on, tidied himself up, and, winding down the window, shouted: “What’s up lads? Let me through, please, I’m going to my work, over there, security staff.”

And the British soldiers opened the way for him. ‘Big Doc’ was welcome in many Andersonstown homes and highly respected by all who knew him.

Families with whom he billeted remember how security conscious he was, staying away for days, using billets in no regular pattern.

ENJOYED

Through those months of intense involvement Kieran had little chance to unwind. He mostly liked to go to local clubs for a quiet pint with a few friends.

He also had a reputation as a practical joker. One day he rang a friend from a pub and told him they were wrecking the place, simply to have his friend rush over in his car to pick him up.

In July ’76, a few weeks before his arrest, Kieran enjoyed one of the rare holidays he ever had since the arrival of British troops on his local streets. With a few close friends he drove to the South and was able to indulge in his love for outdoor activities, exhausting his friends with long walks and swims.

By that time he had met his girlfriend, Geraldine, the only steady relationship he ever formed during his short period of freedom.

They did not get much of a chance, as Kieran’s heavy republican involvement often interfered with their dating and since August ’76 they only met for a few minutes once in a while under the gaze of prison warders.

SEAN McDERMOTT

Kieran’s comrades-in-arms recall one particular operation, of the many he was involved in, when one Andersonstown Volunteer – Sean McDermott – was shot dead.

Kieran got away and was told to lie low for a few days, but nevertheless he appeared at his comrade’s funeral.

Sean McDermott’s mother has a photograph of the funeral cortege in which Kieran can be seen, standing on the footpath, sombre, alone, looking on as the coffin is carried to Milltown cemetery.

Sean’s death, and the arrest of other comrades involved, hit Kieran very hard.

BOMBING

In August ’76, as Kieran and his unit were on a bombing mission, the van in which they were travelling was chased by the RUC near Balmoral Avenue in Belfast.

Kieran got out of the van and commandeered a car, which he left some streets away and walked off.

Meanwhile, the others in the van were cornered, Liam White being captured immediately, and the others, Chris Moran, Terry Kirby and John ‘Pickles’ Pickering – himself later to embark on hunger-strike – finally giving themselves up when surrounded in a house they had taken over.

The RUC picked Kieran up one-and-a-half miles away from the scene, unarmed.

He was later charged with possession of firearms and explosives and commandeering the car. Forensic tests could not link Kieran to the first two charges, and although it was impossible for the RUC to have spotted him escaping, seventeen months later, at his trial, RUC Constable Bryons perjured himself twice in order to see Kieran locked up.

On remand in Crumlin Road jail he met Francis Hughes and developed a great admiration for him. Friends often speak of the similarities between the two, always defiant, always fighting, born free.

In Crumlin Road, Kieran was often ‘on the boards’ as punishment for his refusal to acknowledge the warders in any way. He carried this attitude into the H-Blocks after he was sentenced, in January 1978, to eighteen years imprisonment for possession, and four years for commandeering the car.

BLANKET

Kieran joined the blanket protest immediately as did his comrades sentenced with him. He spent all but two weeks of his three years and almost eight months in the H-Blocks, in H4-Block (the temporary spell was in H6), before being moved to the prison hospital during his hunger strike.

Recollections of Kieran’s experiences in the H-Blocks give an impression of relentless conflict between himself and the warders, who made him a target both because of his height and because of his stubborn defiance of the prison regime.

On ‘appeal’ visits he always had to be dragged away, ignoring all calls to end the visit. He never looked a warder in the face when one addressed him and never replied to their orders. He always refused to submit to the anal searches over the mirror before and after visits and was beaten for this.

The worst incident occurred in July ’78 when Kieran refused a mirror search before a legal visit. Eight warders jumped on him, one squeezing his testicles until he became unconscious. He received blows to every part of his body and was taken to the prison hospital.

Although people who visited him recall how often he arrived pale or with grazes on his arms or bloodshot eyes, he never complained, brushing their questions off with a shrug: “I’m OK. What’s the sceal?”

CHESS

Although Kieran had not been taught Irish at school, and had no time to learn it, later he became a fluent speaker in the H-Blocks like hundreds of his imprisoned comrades.

Another skill mastered by Kieran, whilst in the H-Blocks, was playing chess – crude chess men were made from scraps of paper and the game was played on a mock board scratched out on the cell floors.

Displayed proudly in his parents’ sitting room is an engraved plaque bearing a stunning yet heartbreaking story in eight words: ‘Kieran Doherty, 1980 Champion, Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’.

And, next to it, another shield, again engraved ‘Ciaran Nugent Chess Shield’, but this time with twelve metal tags, the top of which bears Kieran Doherty’s name and ’1980′, the other eleven still blank. A clue to Kieran’s patience and ability, a clue to the blanket men’s grim determination to outlast the H-Blocks.

CAVAN / MONAGHAN

In June of this year, in the Free State general election, Kieran was elected a member of the Leinster House parliament for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency with 9,121 first preference votes – only 303 votes behind the then-sitting Free State Minister of Education.

HUNGER STRIKE

To a friend who visited him after the first hunger strike, which ended last December, Kieran said: “They (the warders) are really rubbing our noses in it. By God, they will not rub mine!”

Asked whether he would not settle down – after all, with five years done and remission, another six years would soon be over. He replied: “Remission has nothing to do with it. There is much more than that involved.”

So he went on hunger strike on Friday, May 22nd, having put his name forward for it long ago, as undaunted and full of fighting spirit as when he roamed free on the streets of Andersonstown.

A child, like hundreds of others a product of British brutality and stupidity in the North, who revealed himself to be an outstanding soldier of the republic.

Kieran was a shy, reserved, easily-embarrassed young man who was single-minded and determined enough to have become, in himself, a condensed history of the liberation of a people.

R.I.P. ~ Kieran Doherty…

Oglach Peatsai O hEadhra (Patsy O’Hara) 11 July 1957 – 21 May1981

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Óglaigh Na HÉireann

Patsy O’Hara

Died May 21st, 1981

A determined and courageous Derryman

Twenty-three-year-old Patsy O’Hara from Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks, and joined IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike on March 22nd, three weeks after Bobby Sands and one week after Francis Hughes.

Patsy O’Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city.

His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived. His eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned in Long Kesh for almost four years. The second eldest in the family, Tony, was imprisoned in the H-Blocks – throughout Patsy’s hunger strike – for five years before being released in August of this year, having served his full five-year sentence with no remission.

The youngest in the O’Hara family is twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth.

Before ‘the troubles’ destroyed the family life of the O’Haras, and the overwhelming influence of being an oppressed youth concerned about his country drove Patsy to militant republicanism, there is the interesting history of his near antecedents which must have produced delight in Patsy’s young heart.

GRANDFATHER

Patsy’s maternal grandfather, James McCluskey, joined the British army as a young man and went off to fight in the First World War. He received nine shrapnel wounds at Ypres and was retired on a full pension.

However, on returning to Ireland his patriotism was set alight by Irish resistance and the terror of British rule. He duly threw out his pension book, did not draw any more money and joined the Republican Movement. He transported men and weapons along the Foyle into Derry in the ‘twenties.

He inherited a public house and bookmakers, in Foyle Street, and was a great friend of Derry republican Sean Keenan’s father, also named Sean.

Mrs. Peggy O’Hara can recall ‘old’ Sean Keenan being arrested just before the out break of the Second World War. Her father’s serious illness resulted in him escaping internment and he died shortly afterwards in 1939.

Mrs. O’Hara’s aunt was married to John Mulhern, a Roscommon man, who was in the RIC up until its disbandment in 1921.

“When my father died in 1939 – says Mrs O’Hara, – “John Mulhern, who was living in Bishop Street, and owned a bar and a grocery shop, took us in to look after us. I remember him telling us that he didn’t just go and join the RIC, but it was because there were so many in the family and times were hard.

“My father was a known IRA man and my uncle reared me, and I was often slagged about this. Patsy used to hear this as a child, but Patsy was a very, very straight young fellow and he was a wee bit bigoted about my uncle being a policeman.

“But a number of years ago Patsy came in to me after speaking to an old republican from Corrigans in Donegal, and Patsy says to me, ‘You’ve nothing to be ashamed of, your uncle being a policeman, because that man was telling me that even though he was an RIC man, he was very, very helpful to the IRA!”

FAMILY

The trait of courage which Patsy was to show in later years was in him from the start, says Mr. O’Hara. “No matter who got into trouble in the street outside, Patsy was the boy to go out and do all the fighting for him. He was the fighting man about the area and didn’t care how big they were. He would tackle them. I even saw him fighting men, and in no way could they stop him. He would keep at them. He was like a wee bull terrier!”

Apparently, up until he was about twelve years of age, Patsy was fat and small, “a wee barrel” says his mother. Then suddenly he shot up to grow to over six foot two inches.

Elizabeth, his sister, recalls Patsy: “He was a mad hatter. When we were young he used to always play tricks on me, mother and father. We used to play a game of cards and whoever lost had to do all the things that everybody told them.

“We all won a card game once and made Patsy crawl up the stairs and ‘miaow’ like a cat at my mother’s bedroom door. She woke up the next day and said, ‘am I going mad? I think I heard a cat last night’ and we all started to laugh.”

The O’Haras’ house was open to all their children’s friends, and again to scores of the volunteers who descended on Derry from all corners of Ireland when the RUC invaded in 1969. But before that transformation in people’s politics came, Mrs. O’Hara still lived for her family alone.

She was especially proud of her eldest son, Sean Seamus who had passed his eleven plus and went to college.

PROTESTS

When Sean was in his early teens he joined the housing action group, around 1967, Mrs. O’Hara’s conception of which was Sean helping to get people homes.

“But one day, someone came into me when I was working in the bar, and said, ‘Your son is down in the Guildhall marching up and down with a placard!

“I went down and stood and looked and Finbarr O’Doherty was standing at the side and wee fellows were going up and down. I went over to Sean and said, ‘Who gave you that? He said, Finbarr!’ I took the placard off Sean and went over to Finbarr, put it in his hand, and hit him with my umbrella.’

Mrs. O’Hara laughs when she recalls this incident, as shortly afterwards she was to have her eyes opened.

“After that, I went to protests wherever Sean was, thinking that I could protect him! I remember the October 1968 march because my husband’s brother, Sean, had just been buried.

“We went to the peaceful march over at the Waterside station and saw the people being beaten into the ground. That was the first time that I ever saw water cannons, they were like something from outer space.

“We thought we had to watch Sean, but to my astonishment Patsy and Tony had slipped away, and Patsy was astonished and startled by what he saw.”

INCIDENT

Later, Patsy was to write about this incident: “The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, ‘One man, one vote’ and singing ‘We shall overcome’ I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable.”

IRSP

Shortly after his release in April 1975, Patsy joined the ranks of the fledgling Irish Republican Socialist Party, which the ‘Sticks’, using murder, had attempted to strangle at birth. He was free only about two months when he was stopped at the permanent check-point on the Letterkenny Road whilst driving his father’s car from Buncrana in County Donegal.

The Brits planted a stick of gelignite in the car (such practice was commonplace) and he was charged with possession of explosives. He was remanded in custody for six months, the first trial being stopped due to unusual RUC ineptitude at framing him. At the end of the second trial he was acquitted and released after spending six months in jail.

In 1976, Patsy had to stay out of the house for fear of constant arrest. That year, also, his brother, Tony, was charged with an armed raid, and on the sole evidence of an alleged verbal statement was sentenced to five years in the H-Blocks.

Despite being ‘on the run’ Patsy was still fond of his creature comforts!

His father recalls: “Sean Seamus came in late one night and though the whole place was in darkness he didn’t put the lights on. He went to sit down and fell on the floor. He ran up the stairs and said: ‘I went to sit down and there was nothing there’

“Patsy had taken the sofa on top of a red Rover down to his billet in the Brandywell. Then before we would get up in the morning he would have it back up again. When we saw it sitting there in the morning we said to Sean: ‘Are you going off your head or what? and he was really puzzled.”

IMPRISONED

In September 1976, he was again arrested in the North and along with four others charged with possession of a weapon. During the remand hearings he protested against the withdrawal of political status.

The charge was withdrawn after four months, indicating how the law is twisted to intern people by remanding them in custody and dropping the charges before the case comes to trial.

In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin’s Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.

Whilst living in the Free State, Patsy was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area, and campaigned against the special courts.

In January 1979, he moved back to Derry but was arrested on May 14th, 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade.

In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket.

HUNGER STRIKE

What were Mrs. O’Hara’s feelings when Patsy told her he was going on hunger strike?

“My feelings at the start, when he went on hunger strike, were that I thought that they would get their just demands, because it is not very much that they are asking for. There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else’s son go. Someone’s sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son.”

PRINCIPLES

Writing shortly before the hunger strike began, Patsy O’Hara grimly declared: “We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men.

“They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.

Patsy witnessed the baton charges and said: “The people were sandwiched in another street and with the Specials coming from both sides, swinging their truncheons at anything that moved. It was a terrifying experience and one which I shall always remember.”

Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara believe that it was this incident when Patsy was aged eleven, followed by the riots in January 1969 and the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in August 1969 that aroused passionate feelings of nationalism, and then republicanism, in their son. “Every day he saw something different happening,” says his father. “People getting beaten up, raids and coffins coming out. This was his environment.”

JOINED

In 1970, Patsy joined na Fianna Eireann, drilled and trained in Celtic Park.

Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers. Internment, introduced in August 1971, hit the O’Hara family particularly severely with the arrest of Sean Seamus in October. “We never had a proper Christmas since then” says Elizabeth. “When Sean Seamus was interned we never put up decorations and our family has been split-up ever since then.”

Shortly after Sean’s arrest Patsy, one night, went over to a friend’s house in Southway where there were barricades. But coming out of the house, British soldiers opened fire, for no apparent reason, and shot Patsy in the leg. He was only fourteen years of age and spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.

BLOODY SUNDAY

On January 30th, 1972, his father took him to watch the big anti-internment march as it wound its way down from the Creggan. “I struggled across a banking but was unable to go any further. I watched the march go up into the Brandywell. I could see that it was massive. The rest of my friends went to meet it but I could only go back to my mother’s house and listen to it on the radio,” said Patsy.

Asked about her feelings over Patsy be coming involved in the struggle, Mrs. O’Hara said: “After October 1968, I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all”.

Mr O’Hara said: “Personally speaking, I knew he would get involved. It was in his nature. He hated bullies al his life, and he saw big bullies in uniform and he would tackle them as well.

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the ‘Republican Clubs’ and was active until 1973, “when it became apparent that they were firmly on the path to reformism and had abandoned the national question”.

INTERNED

From this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted.

One day, he and a friend were arrested on the Briemoor Road. Two saracens screeched to a halt beside them. Patsy later described this arrest: “We were thrown onto the floor and as they were bringing us to the arrest centre, we were given a beating with their batons and rifles. When we arrived and were getting out of the vehicles we were tripped and fell on our faces”.

Three months later, after his seventeenth birthday, he was taken to the notorious interrogation centre at Ballykelly. He was interrogated for three days and then interned with three others who had been held for nine days.

“Long Kesh had been burned the week previously” said Patsy, “and as we flew above the camp in a British army helicopter we could see the complete devastation. When we arrived, we were given two blankets and mattresses and put into one of the cages.

“For the next two months we were on a starvation diet, no facilities of any” kind, and most men lying out open to the elements…

“That December a ceasefire was announced, then internment was phased out.” Merlyn Rees also announced at the same time that special category status would be withdrawn on March 1st, 1976. I did not know then how much that change of policy would effect me in less than three years”.

Patsy O’Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st – on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.

Even in death his torturers would not let him rest. When the O’Hara family been broken and his corpse bore several burn marks inflicted after his death.

Rest in Peace Patsy O’Hara…

OGLACH RAYMOND McCREESH 21 MAY 1981 R.I.P

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Roger Casement Cumann

Monday 21st May will mark the 26th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of Volunteer Raymond McCreesh, South Armagh brigade, Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Raymond was the third of ten men to die on hungerstrike in 1981 in an effort to win political status for republican prisoners of war. As a result of the strike the British government eventually granted all of the prisoners demands and political status was reintroduced in everything but name.

As a result of legislation passed after the signing of the good friday agreement in 1998 and with the consent of Sinn Fein and the SDLP political status was once again removed. Everything that had been won by Raymond and his comrades at the cost of their young lives was bargained away and in the process another generation was condemned to struggle for recognition as political prisoners.

Right now in maghaberry prison Irish republicans are being criminalized by the prison regime for no other reason than like Bobby Sands they too sought to free their country from foreign occupation.

In 2003 as a result of a dirty protest by Óglaigh na hÉireann (whom the media refer to as the Real IRA) prisoners republicans achieved segregation from loyalists and criminals. Last weekend however the prison authorities began moving criminals onto the republican wing in what seems to be an effort to undo the concessions which had been previously won.

The republican prisoners also find themselves locked up for up to 23 hours a day, have inadequate educational facilities, are not allowed to freely associate with one another and are subject to constant strip searches and other forms of harassment and degradation. Their families are also subjected to intimidation and harassment when visiting them.

As the people of South Armagh remember the great sacrifice made by Ray McCreesh we must ask ourselves what it was all for? Are those who suffer today in another British prison any different than he was? and do they not deserve the same support as we gave the men of 1981?

The constitutional nationalist parties have been completely silent on this issue and we in the 32 County Sovereignty Movement challenge them to state publicly why they agreed to the removal of political status and do they think that republican prisoners should be labeled as criminals because of their opposition to British rule in Ireland? We would ask them that now they are in government in the 6 counties will they finally do the right thing and restore political status for these men?

Hopefully this situation can be resolved in a proper manner and our communities are never again forced to go through what they did in 1981.

Raymond McCreesh – H-Block Martyr

Raymond McCreesh – H-Block Martyr

Raymond McCreesh – H-Block Martyr

I am an Irishman born under British rule,
A prisoner since my mother gave birth,
I have seen catholic families evicted, saw their homes being burned
By a rampaging mob of murdering Loyalists.I saw young men battered and beaten
By the strong arm of the British Army,
I took a vow to God and Ireland
That I would help to set my country free.I saw Ulster become a battlefield
As the angels in heaven cried,
I heard the mortar bombs and bullets speak,
I read the names of comrades who died.I joined the Provisional IRA
To destroy the chains of slavery
That for 800 years we have struggled to break;
I gave my life to God and to my country.
~Daniel McDonagh~

 — with Rory Dubhdara

Suspicions that Kingsmill killer was informer

A top secret British Army document shows an IRA killer who slaughtered 10 Protestants at Kingsmill could have been arrested months later when he was injured in a gun battle.

The report given to the Sunday World reveals how the RUC and British Army knew the IRA murderer was being treated in Louth county hospital in Dundalk but made no attempt to have him arrested and extradited.

The failure to bring the Provo to justice has led to suspicions that the man – who has never been prosecuted despite extensive paramilitary involvement – was a British agent.

The killer can’t be named for legal reasons. ‘P’ is from the south Armagh village of Belleek but now lives in the Republic.

The Kingsmill families want the Irish government to allow the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to question him. The HET currently have no authority to arrest or interview suspects living across the border.

The south Armagh man escaped after a gun battle with British paratroopers in which three other IRA members, including legendary republican Raymond McCreesh who would later die on hunger-strike, were captured.

‘P’ was shot and wounded when the paras opened fire on an IRA unit near the Mountain House inn on the Newry-Newtownhamilton Road on June 25 1976. He was struck by three bullets in the leg, arm and chest but managed to crawl away.

He was then ferried across the border and treated at Louth hospital hours later.

A Royal Military Police document dated August 19 1976 reveals that both the RUC and British Army knew he was there but failed to contact gardai to have him arrested.

Four guns were recaptured by the security forces after the gun battle with the IRA, including two which had been used in the infamous Kingsmill massacre five months earlier.

Ten Protestant workers were taken from their minibus in January 1976 and brutally slain by the side of the road.

They were lined up beside their van and shot from two feet. Some fell on top of each other. Then ‘P’, one of the 12 gunmen, walked round the dying men and shot each of them again in the head as they lay on the ground.

Willie Frazer, director of IRA victims group FAIR – who is organising a controversial march through south Armagh to commemorate Kingsmill next weekend, said the security forces were guilty of grave negligence.

“This man did one of the coldest, cruellest things imaginable. He walked over and coolly finished off dying men who were lying in pools of their own blood.” Frazer said.

“Five months later, there was the perfect opportunity to have him arrested when he lay in a hospital bed a few miles across the Border. But neither the police nor the army bothered.

“It must be asked why this IRA man is a protected species. He carried out one of the most heinous acts during the conflict but has never even been interviewed about it.

“Today he walks the streets a free man while the families of the dead are still grieving and are tortured with horrible thoughts of the last moments of their loved ones lives.”

Colin Worton, whose 24-year-old brother Kenneth was killed in the atrocity, said he was appalled by the failure to pursue his brother’s murderer.

“The RUC should have asked gardai to arrest and extradite him to Northern Ireland. At the very least, he should have been questioned about Kingsmill. It makes no sense.

“It’s only now we’re realising it was a very dirty war. But the Irish government still has the power to rectify the situation. They must let the HET interview ‘P’ immediately.”

The four IRA men fled after the gun battle with the paras near the Mountain House inn but three were captured hours later. Daniel McGuinness (18) from the south Armagh village of Camlough was found sleeping in a quarry.

Paddy Quinn (24) from Belleek and Raymond McCreesh (19) from Camlough were discovered in a nearby house. According to the secret army document both Quinn and McCreesh allegedly broke the IRA code of secrecy and named ‘P’ to soldiers as the fourth gunman.

All three captured men were later sentenced to 14 years in jail for attempted murder of the paras. McCreesh became the third hunger-striker to die in the 1981 H-Block death fast.

Paddy Quinn also went on hunger-strike but his mother took him off the protest after 47 days when he was close to death.

February 20, 2012
________________

This article appeared in the February 19, 2012 edition of the Sunday World.

IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS ( Support for Palestinian hunger striker )

Support for Palestinian hunger striker

khaderadnan.jpg Republican groups of all hues have rallied in support of Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan, who is said to be near death while shackled to a bed in an Israeli hospital.

Mr Adnan is on the 62nd day of his hunger strike and is in immediate danger of death, according to the latest medical reports.

A baker from a village near Jenin, he is being held without charge by the Israeli authorities under what they term “administrative detention”. He began his hunger strike on 18 December, the day after being arrested.

Adnan’s hunger strike is in protest at his detention without charge or being told of any evidence against him, and over abuse and degrading treatment during arrest and interrogation. This is his ninth period of detention. In the past he has acted as a spokesman for a Palestinian militant group.

He has asked to be charged or released. In his own words Khadar said “My dignity is more precious than food.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore and his European counterparts to urgently intervene to save his life and demand that the Israeli state meet their responsibilities under international law.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk has expressed his urgent and extreme concern regarding Khader Adnan, and urged the international community to intervene on his behalf so it is not good enough for the Tánaiste to simply express concern,” he said.

“I am calling on the Tánaiste and his European counterparts to urgently intervene to save Khader Adnan’s life.

“The practice of ‘administrative detentions’ is clearly unjust and has been used systematically as part of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli state.

“Over the years Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods of time without prosecution, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing their solicitors to study the evidence making a mockery of the protections specified in Israeli and international law to protect the right of liberty and due process, the right of defendants to state their case and the presumption of innocence.

“There are 308 Palestinians are currently being held ‘administrative detentions’

“Apportioning political labels to detainees is no justification for prolonged imprisonment without trial”.

Geraldine McNamara, National PRO of Republican Sinn Fein, condemned the Israeli administration for refusing to act.

“His condition is now extremely grave,” she said. “Yet prison authorities shamelessly called his health ‘acceptable’. They found no grounds for shortening his detention or releasing him.

“Sadly soon Khadar will be released from his prison hell in the same way Bobby Sands and his comrades were in 1981 in Ireland.

“Too many stood idly by then and we should be ashamed that no international body has succeeded in calling on the Israeli’s to end this tragic situation.

“We are told that a person is innocent until proven guilty but in Israel a person can be interned (detained) without trial as has happened in this case.

“Unfortunately imperialist governments worldwide never learn from their mistakes, Khadar will become a martyr and many more will follow in his footsteps.

“He is fading fast now but his strength of character will live forever.

“Our prayers are with Khadar and his family at this time.”

éirígí held vigils in Belfast and Newry this week in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner.

Speaking at the Newry vigil, éirígí’s Stephen Murney said all Palestinian and international organisations and activists had been asked to join in a campaign of solidarity with the hunger striking prisoner and to launch protests and solidarity actions.

“So here we are here today to show solidarity with our comrades in Palestine who are currently on hunger strike. We have deliberately picked this location, Ray McCreesh Park, for obvious reasons. Over thirty years ago Raymond McCreesh and his comrades also embarked on hunger strike and paid the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.”

Murney said that, en route to the event, he had been detained, searched and questioned about his attendance at the vigil by the PSNI police, who he described as a ‘militia’.

“éirígí will continue with our local, national and international campaigns. Internationalism and internationalist solidarity have always been a central theme of Irish republicanism. éirígí understands that now, more than ever, the struggle for an Ireland free of the twin fetters of capitalism and imperialism is integrally linked to the wider international struggle of the poor and oppressed against the rich and powerful.”

McCreesh family deny British claim

THE FAMILY of IRA hunger-striker

Raymond McCartney Mural, Bogside, Derry, North...

 have strongly rejected claims in a British government document that they prevented him from breaking his fast after he allegedly requested nourishment from the prison authorities.

The 24-year-old from Camlough, Co Armagh, was serving a 14-year term at the Maze Prison, Long Kesh, for the attempted murder of British soldierswhen he died on May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.

Prison Cell

British state papers released under the 30-year rule allege that, five days before he died, McCreesh indicated a willingness to accept nourishment, but that his family advised against such intervention.

A view along the corridor of one of the wings ...

A statement issued yesterday said the document was “untrue” and “inaccurate” in its account of statements attributed to family members.

A statement issued yesterday said the document was “untrue” and “inaccurate” in its account of statements attributed to family members.

“The family have always been convinced that the situation was deliberately engineered by authorities in government and the prison service to break the hunger strike.

“Agents of the state abused the extremely vulnerable condition of a dying man for political and propaganda purposes. When their efforts failed they attempted to vilify the family. This episode stands as a testament to the depravity of the state at the time, and as a measure of the shameless depths to which government was prepared to go to achieve their goals.”

Belfast murals Ardoyne - Ardoyne's claim that ...

In a separate development, former Sinn Féin director of publicity Danny Morrison said other British documents confirmed his version of events leading up to the death of the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, on July 8th, 1981.

Fence & Tower

Mr Morrison said official notes on a phone call from intermediary Brendan Duddy on July 5th, three days before McDonnell’s death, show that no document on resolving the impasse had been prepared by the British at that stage. He said this refuted a claim by former Maze prisoner Richard O’Rawe in his 2005 memoir, Blanketmen, that Mr Morrison had brought details of a British offer into the prison that day.

Mr Morrison said he was “either in the jail or waiting to get in when this phone call was made. It shows that the British had at this time not even formulated their offer to us, so how could I be carrying in an offer/deal?”

O’Rawe says the British had made an offer which was acceptable to the leadership of the prisoners but the IRA army councilrejected the proposed deal.

The entrance to Compound 19, which during inte...
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