Frank Stagg (Irish republican)
|Born||4 October 1941|
|Died||12 February 1976 (aged 34)|
|Cause of death||Hunger strike|
|Known for||Hunger strike of 62 days, from 14 December 1975|
Frank Stagg (Irish: Proinsias Stagg; 4 October 1941 – 12 February 1976) was a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger striker from County Mayo, Ireland who died in 1976 in Wakefield Prison, West Yorkshire, England after 62 days on hunger strike.
Stagg was the seventh child in a family of thirteen children. He was born in Hollymount, County Mayo, in 1941. His brother, Emmet Stagg was a Labour Party politician, formerly a Teachta Dála (TD) for Kildare North.
Stagg 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 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In April 1973, Stagg was arrested with six others alleged to comprise an IRA unit planning bombing attacks in Coventry. He was tried at Birmingham Crown Court. The jury found three of the seven not guilty; the remaining four were all found guilty of criminal damage and conspiracy to commit arson. Stagg and English-born priest, Father Patrick Fell, were found to be the unit’s commanding officers; Stagg was given a ten-year sentence and Fell twelve years. Thomas Gerald Rush was given seven years and Anthony Roland Lynch, who was also found guilty of possessing articles with intent to destroy property, namely nitric acid, balloons, wax and sodium chlorate, was given ten years.
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 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 14 December 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 12 February 1976 after 62 days on hunger strike.
The IRA swore revenge over his death, warning the British public it was going to attack indiscriminately. They exploded about 13 bombs throughout England within a month after Stagg's death.
The 3 Funerals of Frank Stagg
Frank Stagg's burial caused considerable controversy in Ireland, with republicans and two of his brothers seeking to have Stagg buried in the republican plot in Ballina in accordance with his wishes, while his widow, his brother Emmet Stagg and the Irish government wished to have him buried in the family plot in the same cemetery and to avoid republican involvement in the funeral. As the 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 and buried near the family plot. In order to prevent the body being disinterred and reburied by republicans, the grave was covered with concrete. Local Gardai kept an armed guard by the grave for many months. However, unknown to them, the plot beside this grave was available for purchase. Frank's brother George purchased the plot and placed a headstone over it, with it declaring that the "pro-British Irish government" had stolen Frank's body. 22 months later in November 1977, a group of republicans dug up the plot that George had purchased and recovered Frank's coffin under cover of darkness, before reburying it in the republican plot under a third and final headstone.
- "Increased turnout in Bundoran to honour hunger strikers". Saoirse. September 1995. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- Tírghrá. National Commemoration Centre. 2002. p. 186. ISBN 0-9542946-0-2.
- Man's denial on chemicals; The Times; 25 Oct 1973; pg2 Col F
- Priest who 'raised...; The Times; 2 Nov 1973; pg1 col E
- Behind Closed Doors: Cabinet Confidential. RTÉ, 2 January 2007
- "Frank Stagg's Three Funerals". rte.ie. RTE. Retrieved 7 August 2019.