Roisin O'Hagan died two years ago after a short illness, a death greeted with shock and sadness across County Tyrone and through the wider national network for republican prisoners. In a cruel twist of fate, Roisin died the very week that her husband, Sean, was released from Long Kesh. Here, a family friend reflects on Roisin's selflessness and courage.
``Roisin's face would have been `flying off her' with sheer embarrassment at all the fuss and at the tremendous outpouring of support and sympathy for her and her family when she died, but her death deeply touched all those who knew her story. Perhaps who most empathised were those who hav had occasion to visit a loved one in prison or those who have regularly suffered the indignity of an RUC house raid. The early knock was far too familiar a sound for the O'Hagans.
Roisin was at the heart of the large O'Hagan/Rushe family circle and her convictions were tested by circumstances throughout her life. Because of arest and imprisonment, Sean and Roisin were to spend little more than seven of their 25 married years together at home.
Magilligan Prison, Crumlin Road Jail, Gough and Castlereagh barracks became a way of life for the couple and their children. Houseraids and checkpoints, physical assaults and verbal abuse were frequent. On one occasion, Roisin had to climb out the window of her Lisnahull home in Dungannon to give Sean his shoes before he was pushed into an RUC car. She always said that she married Sean for life but all she ever wanted was a little bit of normality.
evening in the company of Roisin's brothers and sisters inevitably entails a journey down the memory lane of Rathbeg in Cookstown. Roisin was extremely giving. She understood the pressure of being oppressed and would often immerse herself in the difficulties of others, always on the basis of strict confidentiality. Although she shunned the limelight, Roisin was tremendously respected and was a souce of inspiration for others. She showed people the ropes when their loved ones were imprisoned and, as Tina Coyle recalls, ``was like a sister to anyone going on a jail visit for the first time''.
Cruelly, illness befell Roisin and she battled out her last days surrounded by her family in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital. Sean had come from Long Kesh to be with her at the end. His 22-year sentence ended as Roisin's life ebed away. No one could take it in.
Thouands paid their respects at the funeral, including Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, symbolising the unity of the republican family and the special place reserved in the republican psyche for those who endure most.''
I measc laochra na nGael go raibh anam Roisin