Remembering Patsy O'Hara
The Irish Revolutionary Patsy O'Hara, died on hunger strike in Long Kesh, this day in 1981.
Patsy O’Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city. His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived.
Patsy was only ten when the civil rights marches began in Derry in 1967, he would later write about a march he witnessed in 1968:
“The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, ‘One man, one vote’ and singing ‘We shall overcome’ I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable."
The RUC invasion of Derry City and the outbreak of the 'troubles' would have a massive impact on the O'Hara family. He joined Na Fianna Éireann in 1970.
Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers, internment was introduced in August 1971 which saw his brother Seamus interned.
Later that year, at the age of 14, he was shot and wounded by a British soldier while manning a barricade, Patsy spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.
Due to his injuries, he was unable to attend the civil rights march on Bloody Sunday but watched it go by him in the Brandywell, and the events of the day had a lasting effect on him.
Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the ‘Republican Clubs’ and was active until 1973, from this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted by the security forces.
In October 1974, O'Hara was interned in Long Kesh, and on his release in April 1975, he joined the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the INLA.
O'Hara was arrested in Derry in June 1975 and held on remand for six months after British soldiers planted explosives in his father's car. In September 1976, he was arrested again and once more held on remand for another four months.
In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin’s Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.
Whilst living in the 26 counties, Patsy was elected to the ard Chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area of Wicklow, and campaigned against the non-jury special courts.
Patsy returned to Derry in January 1979 and was active in the INLA. On May 14th 1979, he was arrested and was convicted of possessing a hand grenade. He was sentenced to eight years in Gaol in January 1980.
Patsy became Officer Commanding of the INLA prisoners in Long Kesh at the beginning of the first hunger strike in 1980, and he joined the 1981 strike on March 22nd.
Patsy O’Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st – on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.
Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann