Former hunger striker dies

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A former republican prisoner who took part in the 1981 hunger strike has died. Dungiven man Liam McCloskey survived 55 days without food when he was forced to end his hunger strike in September 1981.

The former Irish National Liberation Army Volunteer replaced fellow Dungiven native Kevin Lynch on the protest against Thatcher’s criminalisation of political prisoners, which claimed ten lives.

The County Derry men, who were neighbours, friends and comrades, were arrested around the same time in December 1976. They were charged with conspiring to disarm members of the British forces, hijacking and possession of guns. They were convicted in December 1977 and were sentenced to ten years in jail.

Mr McCloskey immediately joined the blanket protest and four years later volunteered for the hunger strike after Kevin’s death. He reluctantly ended his fast after fifty-five days on Saturday 26th September, 1981, after his mother convinced him that she would follow other families and intervene once he lapsed into a coma.

“I don’t think Liam ever got over the hunger strike and Kevin’s death and the fact that he survived,” said his comrade and former blanket man, Eunan Brolly.

After his release Mr McCloskey left the Dungiven area and eventually settled in Buncrana in County Donegal where he lived with his partner, Monica. He embraced humanism and engaged in many peace and reconciliation projects. The last time many of his comrades would have seen him was at the blanket men reunion in Belfast in 2011.

Some years ago he spoke to the Derry Journal about his republicanism.

He said: “Seeing civil rights marchers being beat off the streets and then shot off the streets, it seemed that taking up arms was the only option. I became interested in the republican cause, got involved with the Official IRA then the INLA. I was arrested with a number of others including Kevin Lynch who later died on hunger strike in 1981. I took Kevin’s place on hunger strike and came close to death.

“After release in 1983, I was involved in reconciliation work. I went into third level education in 1988 and have been living and working in Donegal in the caring profession.”

Former comrades described Mr McCloskey as a gentleman, “very quiet and very loyal”.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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