5/21/2006

Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara 25th Anniversary

Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the death of South Armagh Hunger Striker Raymond McCreesh and Derry Hunger Striker Patsy O'Hara. Raymond was the third Hunger Striker to die, he would not be the last.



A native of Camlough and from a staunch Catholic background his family came under intense pressure from the church to bring him off the strikes, the tragedy is that he was due for release in less than 2 years when he went on the strike but that didn't matter to Raymond.

Raymond went on the Blanket immediately upon his arrival at the H-Blocks. His selection for the hunger strike was controversial because he so quiet and wasn't a famous IRA man. Some thought his religious nature would make him susceptible to the influence of interfering priests trying to get him off the hunger strike, even his own brother. But, Bobby Sands, who knew Raymond from being on the same wing, understood his determination. So did Frank Hughes, whom he shared a cell with.

Oddly enough, the same British corporal who Francis Hughes killed during the fire fight that lead to his capture, was the same man who was the first to open fire on Raymond's Active Service Unit a few years earlier. They both could attest to Ray McCreesh's resolve and dedication.


Raymond recieves the final farewell from his comrades in South Armagh

At 2:11 on Thursday morning, 21 May 1981, Raymond McCreesh became the third hunger striker to die for Ireland's cause.

It is Fr Brian McCreesh who spoke the infamous words that sumed up the entire need for and ethos of the Hunger Strikes.

"My Brother is not a Criminal"
Patsy O'Hara, a native of Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks. Writing shortly before the Hunger Strike began, Patsy 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 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.

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!!

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