Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kieran Doherty remembered

Kieran Doherty's Brother, Michael, addressed Monaghan event

On Monday evening last we had a fantastic event in Monaghan Town to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Kieran Doherty, the eight Hunger Striker to die in Long Kesh in 1981.

Monday marked the anniversary eve of Kieran's death and the Co. Monaghan 1981 committee, of which I'm a member, organised a concert and rally in his honour. It was an uplifting tribute. There was music and poetry. Packie McDonald sang a song he recently wrote in Kieran's honour.

There were a number of readings including one by Rose McMahon of a plea written by Kieran's mother, Margaret, back in 1981 which once again brought the harsh reality of the times to life for those of us to young to remember.

(Myself and Michael Doherty with Michael's daughter, Grainne and his wife Betty last Monday)

Of course, numerous mentions were made of the fact that the people of Cavan/ Monaghan elected Kieran Doherty as their TD while he was on Hunger Strike. This always amazes me and makes me incredibly proud to be from this constituency.

In 1981, much like today, the people in Cavan and Monaghan were faced with huge economic pressures, high unemployment and massive emigration. Yet over 9,000 voters gave Kieran Doherty, a lad of 25 years who as far as we know never set foot in these counties, their number 1 vote. There was no personal benefit for them. Those who voted for Kieran Doherty knew that he wouldn't be able to fast track their medical card application or get their road fixed or even raise the issues affecting their daily lives in Leinster House. All they could hope to achieve was the saving of a Belfast man's life and the recognition that his cause was just.

When I think of the gombeens and the chancers that have been elected across all constituencies in the intervening years I am proud to know that people in this constituency were willing to give their vote to what was essentially a 'big idea'. I am also proud that most of those who voted for Kieran Doherty and who are still alive now vote for me and my Sinn Féin colleagues. That is my reassurance that we are doing something right.

I won't go into the history, background and context of the Hunger Strikes. Suffice to suggest that if you don't know a whole pile about this then find out. Read the books, listen to the songs and attend talks or lectures on the subject.

The reason I write this blog is to re-print the words spoken by Kieran Doherty's brother, Michael at the event last Monday. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that anyone video recorded Michael's contribution and the words cannot convey the passion and pride in Michael's voice. His speech was short but powerful and included a quote from Kieran to his parents while he was on his hospital bed dying from Hunger Strike.

Remarks by Michael Doherty:

“I would like to thank everyone present here this evening on this the eve of the 30th anniversary of Kieran’s death after 73 days on hunger strike in the H blocks of Long Kesh, paying tribute and honouring him and his memory, and of course, remembering and honouring everyone who gave their lives for Irish freedom, especially the volunteers from this area.

“The support here this evening from the people of Monaghan/Cavan is very heartening for us and gives all our family great comfort and for this we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

"The people of Cavan/Monaghan never had the opportunity or chance to meet Kieran, but in those last days of his hunger strike he spoke to us about the great people of Cavan/Monaghan and was sorry that he never managed to meet you. You didn’t know Kieran, but he knew you.

“Kieran knew he had a final job to do. He had watched his comrades die before him and said to us a few weeks before he died

“even if I drift into a coma, promise me that you won’t take me off the hunger strike unless the five demands are met. Nothing less will do this time, they must be set in concrete. The British and Maggie Thatcher won’t break me or my comrades. We are not criminals, we are Irish Political Prisoners of War, and we will win in the end — A Defeat is unthinkable after all that has passed. It is not just the 5 demands, the Republican Movement is at stake.”

“The prisoners did win in the end, but made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Kieran is as proud of you all here this evening as you are of him. He would be proud of what has been achieved and of our leaders in this new political phase of the Irish Struggle. Kieran will undoubtedly continue to inspire us all and keep us on the path for a united democratic and peaceful Ireland.

“I and my family would like to take this opportunity to thank Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for inviting us here this evening and for the tremendous and unwavering support he has shown to us since 1981 and up to this present moment. I would like also to thank the organisers of this commemoration and to everyone who participated in any way. We thank everyone particularly for the kindness and courtesy extended to our family”.

On Monday there were shivers down my spine as I listened to Michael and all I could think was "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá!"