Pat McGeown

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A plaque in memory of McGeown.

Pat "Beag" McGeown (3 September 1956 – 1 October 1996[1]) was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who took part in the 1981 Irish hunger strike.

Background and IRA activity[edit]

McGeown was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 3 September 1956, and joined the IRA's youth wing Fianna Éireann in 1970.[2][3] He was first arrested aged 14, and in 1973 he was again arrested and interned in Long Kesh until 1974.[1][3][4] In November 1975 McGeown was arrested and charged with possession of explosives, bombing the Europa Hotel and IRA membership.[3] At his trial in 1976 he was convicted and received a five-year sentence for IRA membership and two concurrent fifteen-year sentences for the bombing and possession of explosives, and was imprisoned at Long Kesh with Special Category Status.[3][4] In March 1978 he attempted to escape along with Brendan McFarlane and Larry Marley. The three had wire cutters and dressed as prison officers complete with wooden guns.[5] The escape was unsuccessful, and resulted in McGeown receiving an additional six-month sentence and the loss of his Special Category Status.[1][3]

Prison protests[edit]

Main articles: Blanket protest and Dirty protest

McGeown was transferred into the Maze Prison's H-Blocks where he joined the blanket protest and dirty protest, attempting to secure the return of Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners.[1][3] McGeown described the conditions inside the prison during the dirty protest in a 1985 interview:

In late 1980 the protest escalated and seven prisoners took part in a fifty-three day hunger strike, aimed at restoring political status by securing what were known as the "Five Demands":

  1. The right not to wear a prison uniform;
  2. The right not to do prison work;
  3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
  4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
  5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.[7]

The strike ended before any prisoners had died and without political status being secured, and a second hunger strike began on 1 March 1981 led by Bobby Sands, the IRA's former Officer Commanding (OC) in the prison.[8] McGeown joined the strike on 9 July, after Sands and four other prisoners had starved themselves to death.[9] Following the deaths of five other prisoners, McGeown's family authorised medical intervention to save his life after he lapsed into a coma on 20 August, the 42nd day of his hunger strike.[9][10]

Freedom[edit]

McGeown was released from prison in 1985, resuming his active role in the IRA's campaign and also working for Sinn Féin, the republican movement's political wing.[1][10] In 1988 McGeown was charged with organising the Corporals killings, an incident where two plain-clothes British Army soldiers were killed by the IRA.[11] At an early stage of the trial his solicitor Pat Finucane argued there was insufficient evidence against McGeown, and the charges were dropped in November 1988.[11][12] McGeown and Finucane were photographed together outside Crumlin Road Courthouse, a contributing factor to Finucane being killed by the Ulster Defence Association in February 1989.[13][14] Despite suffering from heart disease as a result of his participation in the hunger strike, McGeown was a member of Sinn Féin's Ard Chomhairle and active in the Prisoner of War department, and in 1989 he was elected to Belfast City Council as a local councillor.[1][10][15]

Death[edit]

McGeown was found dead in his home on 1 October 1996, after suffering a heart attack.[2][16] Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said his death was "a great loss to Sinn Féin and the republican struggle".[10] McGeown was buried in the Republican plot at Belfast's Milltown Cemetery, and since his death is often referred to as the "11th hunger striker".[15][17] In 1998 the Pat McGeown Community Endeavour Award was launched by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, with Adams describing McGeown as a "a modest man with a quiet, but total dedication to equality and raising the standard of life for all the people of the city".[18] A plaque in memory of McGeown was unveiled outside the Sinn Féin headquarters on the Falls Road on 24 November 2001,[19][20] and a memorial plot on Beechmount Avenue was dedicated to the memory of McGeown, Kieran Nugent and Alec Comerford on 3 March 2002.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Tírghrá. National Commemoration Centre. 2002. pp. p. 366. ISBN 0-9542946-0-2. 
  2. ^ a b "Pat McGeown, Sinn Féin leader". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 5 October 1996. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Pat McGeown joins H-Block fast". An Phoblacht. 13 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  4. ^ a b Bishop, Patrick & Mallie, Eamonn (1987). The Provisional IRA. Corgi Books. pp. p. 339. ISBN 0-552-13337-X. 
  5. ^ Finucane Review: Copy Nelson ‘P cards’ – Patrick McGeown, accessed 13 December 2012.
  6. ^ The Provisional IRA, p. 352.
  7. ^ Taylor, Peter (1997). Provos The IRA & Sinn Féin. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. pp. 229–234. ISBN 0-7475-3818-2. 
  8. ^ "A Chronology of Main Events". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  9. ^ a b "List of Dead and Other Hunger Strikers". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  10. ^ a b c d Shawn Pogatchnik (5 October 1996). "Belfast award honours Pat McGeown". NewStandard. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  11. ^ a b "Pat Finucane: A controversial killing". BBC. 13 September 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  12. ^ "Timeline of Finucane murder probe". BBC. 23 September 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  13. ^ Ed Moloney. "UN to Seek Inquiry into Finucane Murder". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  14. ^ Laura Friel (15 February 2001). "Female FRU operative named". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  15. ^ a b "Pat Beag remembered". An Phoblacht. 9 October 1997. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  16. ^ John Hicks (3 October 1996). "HUNGER STRIKER DIES 15 YEARS AFTER PROTEST". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  17. ^ Paul Howard (30 April 2006). "The Hunger Strikers 25 years later Part 1". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-14. [dead link]
  18. ^ Laura Friel (4 September 1998). "Belfast award honours Pat McGeown". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  19. ^ "Physical Memorials of The Troubles in West Belfast". CAIN. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  20. ^ "Pat McGeown Memorial". An Phoblacht. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  21. ^ Laura Friel (7 March 2002). "Three heroes honoured". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 

External links[edit]