The funeral of Peggy O’Hara, mother of 1981 INLA hunger striker, Patsy O’Hara, has brought together republican figures of all strands together to pay their respects.
The 84-year-old died in Altnagelvin hospital on Tuesday morning after becoming ill at her home in the Buncrana Road area of Derry, and was buried on Saturday morning at the City Cemetery.
Mrs O’Hara’s son, Patsy died after 61 days on hunger strike in May 1981. The IRSP said that, like her son, Peggy was an active member of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, both politically and militarily in the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army).
Speaking about Patsy going on hunger strike, she once said: “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.”
Despite suffering a stroke, Peggy represented the wider republican movement when she stood as an independent in the 2007 assembly elections. She polled well but was unsuccessful standing on an abstentionist, Irish unity, anti-PSNI ticket.
At the time, she said: “I’m standing for Patsy and his comrades in Derry, all the other wee fellows who suffered or died at the hands of the Brits. Patsy has no voice now so I have to be his voice.”
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said he was sorry to hear of her death.
“Peggy along with the parents and families of the other Long Kesh martyrs suffered long agonising days of torment as they watched their sons die in order that their comrades would be treated as political prisoners,” he said.
IRSP spokesman, Martin McMonagle said Mrs O’Hara was an inspiration to the republican socialist movement. Mr McMonagle said: “Everyone looked up to Peggy for the dignified way in which she remained true to Patsy’s memory.
“Peggy retained that dignity despite the way in which she was targeted by police and army during and after Patsy’s death.”
He said Mrs O’Hara was highly thought of within the wider republican family and remained active in the republican socialist movement in every way. The Derry man said that on a personal level, Mrs O’Hara’s death was a huge loss.
“Peggy never lost her good spirits despite all the hardship. Even in her private life, she epitomised the socialist ideal. She had no regard for material wealth but was devoted to her family and friends.
“She was a witty and funny woman and was always joking, even with her carers,” Mr McMonagle said.
Derry independent councillor, Gary Donnelly said Mrs O’Hara was greatly loved through the republican movement. He said he always had great admiration for Peggy.
“She watched her son starve to death in protest against Britain’s criminalisation policy. She took up the mantle of her son and campaigned for prisoner and civil rights,” he said.
“She was a typically strong Irish mother. Despite her great personal suffering in the loss of her son, Peggy showed courage and dignity throughout her life.
“She remained active politically right up until her death and was a pioneer of independent politics when she stood in 2007.”
Republican Sinn Fein also expressed their condolences, and described Patsy as “a strong courageous lady, always dignified even in the face of adversity”.
VOLLEY OF GUNSHOTS
Mrs O’Hara was given full republican honours as her remains were brought from a chapel of rest to her home in Derry on Wednesday evening.
As her coffin was brought from a chapel of rest at William Street on the edge of the Bogside, it was draped in the tricolour and the Starry Plough of the republican socialist movement.
Traffic was brought to a standstill as a colour party of four women and one man, dressed in black and white with their faces covered with scarves and black glasses flanked the coffin.
When the cortege reached Mrs O’Hara’s home at Templegrove in the Buncrana Road area of Derry, the colour party was replaced by three Volunteers who fired a final salute over the coffin. The three masked men then knelt briefly in front of the coffin before moving off as Mrs O’Hara’s remains were taken into her home.
There was also a colour party and a guard of honour made up of around 200 men for the funeral cortege which was headed by a lone piper this (Saturday) morning.
After an Irish Tricolour and “Starry Ploughs” flags were laid on Mrs O’Hara’s silver casket, they accompanied her remains as they were carried by family members and mourners, behind a horse-drawn carriage, to nearby Buncrana Road before dispersing.