|Long Kesh 1974|
The hall packed up pretty quickly, meaning that just after the advertised time of 8 o’clock the panel were seated and the talk began in earnest.
Jim Mc Crystal, a sentenced prisoner in Cage 16 at the time of the burning, was the first to speak. Jim had kept a daily diary of the events as they had unfolded in 1974. This journal of happenings provided the audience with a firsthand account of the sheer horror and brutality that unfolded daily behind the wire in Long Kesh.
The next two speakers were Kevin Hannaway and Mickey Donnelly, two of the so-called ‘hooded men’, who suffered the most horrendous form of torture whilst hooded, at times handcuffed and at all times subject to sensory deprivation.
Kevin and Mickey, two of the first and longest internees, spoke about the horrors carried out within the confines of the disused RAF huts. They told how the ongoing vileness of the place did not offer a credible solution – other than the one they were eventually left with, which was to raze the camp to the ground.
Both provided a descriptive account of ‘the Battle of Long Kesh’ – the fierce battle that ensued once the burning began and the full might of British armaments were lined up and unleashed against the men, who in turn fought gallantly with the first thing that came to hand.
Nuala Perry a member of The Anne Devlin Society Belfast chaired the event. She also read out a fascinating account provided by Eibhlin Brady, a former Armagh Prisoner, outlining how the republican women POWs had taken the Governor hostage and refused to release him until they were given guarantees that the men in Long Kesh were no longer being beaten and that medical assistance was being provided.
Last to speak was Marty McNulty from Tyrone, a lifelong friend and comrade of Hugh Gerard Coney. He gave those in attendance a poignant account of the life and tragic death of the man whose anniversary occurred on that day.
Morale was seemingly very low in the wake of the burning and according to Marty it was felt that an escape would lift the spirits of the men. The story of the tunnel being dug out was inspirational in its own right. Tragically this tale of bravery, skill and ingenuity would end in horror and a pain still totally evident in the words and on the face of Marty McNulty forty years on.
We are thankful the event was so well attended and the feedback from those in attendance was simply incredible. In the New Year we as a Society will be hosting other similarly-themed events and hope we can count on your continuing support. Go raibh maith agaibh.