INLA Vol. Patsy O’Hara – Hunger Striker Martyr
The year 2016 is the 35th anniversary of the H-Block Hunger Strike of 1981 when ten brave and selfless Republican Socialist and IRA prisoners gave their lives in the struggle for the right to be treated as political prisoners. Of the ten Republican POW’s who sacrificed their lives for their comrades, three were Irish Republican Socialist prisoners, almost a third of the 1981 Hunger Strike martyrs. At the commencement of the first Hunger Strike in 1980 and up to the 22nd of March 1981 when he took his place on the 2nd tragic Stailc, Volunteer Patsy O’Hara was Officer Commanding (O/C) of Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoners held in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh concentration camp.
Patsy O’Hara was born in Derry on the 11th July 1957, a city that was the personification of British misrule. As a youngster growing up in the Orange state-let of ‘Northern Ireland’ under the jackboot of the Stormont Unionist one party junta, he would have witnessed his fellow citizens who marched peacefully for basic Civil Rights being viciously beaten off the streets by the Unionist party’s paramilitary police force the Royal Ulster Constabuarly (RUC.) At the age of just 13 Patsy O’Hara joined the Republican youth movement, Na Fianna, and a year later in the Winter of 1971 he was shot and wounded by a British soldier. In 1974 he was interned without trial in Long Kesh concentration camp. On release he became active in the Irish Republican Socialist Party and it’s military wing the INLA. Between his release from internment without trial, he was arrested several times and spent further periods of imprisonment for taking the war to the forces of British occupation in Ireland.
The Republican Socialist Movement that Patsy O’Hara was a shining example of, stressed the symbiotic need for not just National Liberation but the necessity for the radical redistribution of the means of production, distribution and exchange, ie, the creation of a 32 County Irish Workers’ Republic. It is locally reported that the radical politics of the Republican Socialist Movement did not find favour with neo-liberal leadership elements within the Provisionals in Derry city who have since gone on to become ministers in the current Stormont, Tammany Hall type regime. At one stage in 1977 Patsy O’Hara was shamefully attacked by 12 members of the Provisionals in an unsuccessful attempt to stunt the growth of the Republican Socialist Movement in Derry, clearly Green Tories feared the appeal of economic liberation just as much as the Brits feared national liberation!
In May 1979, Patsy O’Hara was captured by the British occupational forces and charged under special ’emergency’ legislation with possession of a hand-grenade. A year later he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in the infamous H-Blocks of Long Kesh where he joined his comrades on the blanket protest. On March 22nd 1981 he commenced his Hunger Strike on the same day as his PIRA fellow Republican POW, Raymond McCreesh. While on the protest in the H-Blocks Patsy O’Hara stated:
“After we are gone, what will you say you were doing? Will you say you were with us in our struggle or were you conforming to the very system that drove us to our deaths?”
After 61 days refusing food, Patsy O’Hara’s last struggle against Imperialism and the British government’s failed attempts to criminalise him, ended approximately 20 minutes before midnight on the 21st of May 1981. He was the first of the three INLA volunteers to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike for human rights. His last words to Peggy O’Hara, his mother were:
“Please mammy, let the fight go on!”
Volunteer Patsy O’Hara’s legacy to the Republican Socialist Movement is huge and his bravery is commemorated by his comrades from those dark days and the many younger members joining the IRSM. His image is arguably one of the most instantly recognizable human faces of the 1981 Hunger Strike. In the years following the Hunger Strikes the Republican Socialist youth movement was named after Patsy O’Hara as were European armed revolutionary movements, one of which bore the name ‘The Patsy O’Hara Commando.’
Today, Patsy O’Hara is commemorated in murals, songs and monuments in working class areas of Ireland as a symbol of resistance to British imperialism and the struggle for an Irish Workers Republic. In this year, his 35th anniversary, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement which Patsy O’Hara died a member of and which he devoted all his adult life to, continues to fight for the Irish working class and the intrinsic goals of Irish national liberation and socialism!
Alex Mcguigan, Belfast
” If you strike at , imprison , or kill us out of our prisons or graves we will evoke a spirit that will thwart you and perhaps raise a force that will destroy you ! We defy you! Do your worst!! “
(INLA Firing party at Patsy O’Hara’s funeral, Derry 1981)