Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Anne Devlin Society Host Talk On The Burning Of Long Kesh

The Committee of the Anne Devlin Society Belfast describes its first public event in a piece that featured in the website of the 1916 Societies.

 
Long Kesh 1974
On a cold, wet and incredibly blowy Belfast night, the Anne Devlin Society set about putting the final touches to the room where we would host our first public event – ‘the Burning of Long Kesh and the murder of Hugh Gerard Coney’. Excitement mixed with trepidation as we set about ordering the tables, the prepared food and the great array of contemporary prison artefacts, themselves providing an unbroken link between past and present prison struggle.

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.

10 comments :

sean bres said...

Great work by Nuala and the girls, didn't get up to this but heard it was an absolute belter of a night!

Tain Bo said...

Nuala,

I am glad the event went so well, naturally I have to ask if there will be an article(s) on the discussion.

All the best

Fionnuala Perry said...

Thank you Sean. A truly brilliant night!

Tain Bo,
I had already done a piece on the Burning last year.
It was a more comprehensive talk this year, as Micky Donnelly from Derry proved a great addition to the panel.

I would still feel,it was covering old ground though. But thanks for the interest Tain Bo.

Tain Bo said...

Nuala,

you will have to forgive me but I don’t recall the piece off hand could be as simple as my mind is not what it used to be or it has got lost in the times.

The only reason I asked about an article on the discussion is it would be interesting to hear the truth from those whose accounts would shed more light on the history and I had forgot the women in Armagh doing their bit.

I am not sure if it is covering old ground but more or less checks and balance keeping the actual history alive.

No matter as I said I am glad it went well it is just a sad time when others would prefer we listened to the wonder wall brigade and their version of what went on.

Fionnuala Perry said...

Tain Bo,
I wrote a piece after the Mc Kelvey 1916 Society hosted the talk this time last year.

It was a fascinating talk and you just might tempt me into telling it.
It certainly differs from a few I've heard recently.

Eibhlin Brady provides a fascinating account of the women's response.
Incredible to think they took the governor hostage and few even know that.

Tain Bo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tain Bo said...

Nuala,

I certainly hope you find the time or inclination to write about it. If I had the accounts myself I would take a stab at it.

It was incredible that the women managed to do what they did and it is sad to think not many know and in my case had forgotten until you mentioned it.

All the best

Fionnuala Perry said...

Tain Bo,
If you want I could get the accounts to you in a week or two?

Tain Bo said...

Nuala,

I might have put myself on the spot; naturally I am not sure if I could do it justice, although on that you would have to have the final say.
If you don’t mind I will get in touch with you later this week and we can work out the details

Fionnuala Perry said...

Tain Bo,
Not a problem. In your own time!