13 September 1956|
Cappagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
|Died||13 July 1981(aged 24)|
Cause of death
|Known for||Hunger strike of 46 days, from 28 May 1981|
Hurson, from Cappagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, was one of nine children born to Johnnie and Mary Ann Hurson. Hurson was educated to a primary level at Crosscavanagh Primary School in Galbally and at secondary level in St. Patrick's, Galbally.
After leaving school, he worked as a welder for a while before going to England where he stayed for eighteen months with his brother Francis and worked in the building trade. Returning to County Tyrone at the end of 1974, both he and his brother spent time in Bundoran, County Donegal, a known IRA training and supply centre.
In November 1976, Hurson, together with Kevin O’Brien, Dermot Boyle, Peter Kane and Pat O’Neill were arrested. Martin Hurson was tried and convicted of involvement in three IRA landmine incidents, one at Cappagh in September and one at Galbally in November 1975 and a third at Reclain in February 1976 when several members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment narrowly escaped being killed. He received concurrent sentences of twenty, fifteen and five years for these convictions.
He became engaged to his long term girlfriend, Bernadette Donnelly, while in prison. He was part of the blanket protest and joined the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike on 28 May replacing Brendan McLaughlin, who withdrew following a perforated stomach ulcer.
He lost the ability to hold down water after around 40 days on hunger strike, and died of dehydration after only 46 days, considerably shorter than any other hunger striker. (The next shortest was Francis Hughes at 59 days, and he was not an entirely fit man when he started the hunger strike.) Near the end his family considered the possibility of intervening to save his life, but they were told that he would probably have permanent brain damage.
He was a candidate at the 1981 Irish general election in the Longford–Westmeath constituency where he obtained 4,573 (10.1%) first preference votes. He is commemorated on the Irish Martyrs Memorial at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney, Australia.
- Tírghrá, National Commemoration Centre, 2002. PB, ISBN 0-9542946-0-2, p.240
- "AROUND THE NATION; Hunger Striker in Belfast Gives Up His Prison Fast". New York Times. 16 August 1981. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- "What happened in the hunger strike?". BBC News. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Biography from IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981 (Sinn Féin publication)
- Timeline of 1981 Hunger Strike (from NYU Library)