Remembering Frank Stagg
The Irish Revolutionary died this day on hunger strike in 1976.
Frank Stagg was born on October 4th 1941 in Hollymount, County Mayo. He was the seventh child in a family of thirteen children and was educated to primary level at Newbrook Primary School and at CBS Ballinrobe to secondary level.
After finishing his schooling, he worked as an assistant gamekeeper with his uncle prior to emigrating to England in search of work.
Once in England, he gained employment as a bus conductor in north London and later became a bus driver. Whilst in England he met and married fellow Mayo native, Bridie Armstrong from Carnacon.
In 1972, he joined the Luton Cumann of Sinn Féin and soon after became a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) determined to help in the fight against British Rule in Ireland.
In April 1973, Stagg was arrested with six others alleged to comprise of an IRA unit planning bombing attacks in Coventry. Stagg was found guilty at his trial in Birmingham crown court of criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson and was given a ten-year sentence.
Stagg was initially sent to the top security Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight. In March 1974, having been moved to Parkhurst Prison, he and fellow Mayo man Michael Gaughan joined a hunger strike begun by the sisters Marion Price and Dolours Price, Hugh Feeney and Gerry Kelly.
Following the hunger strike that resulted in the death of Michael Gaughan, the Price sisters, Feeney and Kelly were granted repatriation to Ireland. Stagg was denied repatriation and was transferred to Long Lartin Prison.
During his time there he was subject to solitary confinement for refusing to do prison work and was also subjected, along with his wife and sisters during visits, to humiliating body searches.
In protest against this treatment, he began a second hunger strike that lasted for thirty-four days. This ended when the prison governor agreed to an end to the strip-searches on Stagg and his visitors. Stagg was bed-ridden for the rest of his incarceration in Long Lartin, due to a kidney complaint.
In 1975 he was transferred to Wakefield Prison, where it was demanded that he again do prison work. He refused and was placed in solitary confinement. On December 14th 1975, Stagg embarked on a hunger strike in Wakefield, along with a number of other republican prisoners, after being refused repatriation to Ireland during the IRA/British truce.
Stagg's demands were:
An end to solitary confinement
No prison work
Repatriation to prison in Ireland
The British government refused to meet any of these demands. Stagg died on February 12th 1976 after 62 days on hunger strike.
If dying on hunger strike was not hard enough on his family the Free State administration refused him a republican funeral by kidnapping his body and arresting his brother on the flight back to Ireland.
As Irish Republicans waited at Dublin Airport for the body, the Irish Government ordered the flight to be diverted to Shannon Airport. His body was taken to Ballina under armed Free State guard and buried near the family plot. In order to prevent the body being disinterred and reburied by Republicans, the grave was covered with concrete.
In November 1977, a group of republicans tunnelled under the concrete to recover the coffin under cover of darkness and reburied it in the republican plot as was Franks dying wish.