Saturday, May 07, 2005

May 8th, 1981 - Joe McDonnell Joins Hunger Strike

Joe McDonnell
by Míchealín Ní Dhochartaigh
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Joe McDonnell was born on 14th September 1951 in Slate Street in Belfast's Lower Falls. He was one of 10 children.

He married his wife Gorretti in 1970 and moved in to live with Goretti's sister and her family in Lower Lenadoon. They had two children — Bernadette and Joseph. At that time, they were one of only two nationalist households in what was then a predominantly loyalist street, and, they were repeatedly attacked.

During internment, in 1972, Joe’s house was raided and he was taken to the prison ship Maidstone and later on to Long Kesh internment camp where he was held for several months. On his release Joe joined the IRA's Belfast Brigade.

During his periods of internment and when he was free, the McDonnell home was a site for constant harassment by the British army with frequent house raids and street arrests. He could rarely leave the house without being stopped or held up for hours by roadblocks.

Joe McDonnell met Bobby Sands when Republican Volunteers from the Andersonstown area assisted the Twinbrook active service unit which Bobby led. Joe was captured, along with Bobby, in October 1976 following a firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furnishing Company in Upper Dunmurray Lane near the Twinbrook estate. During an ensuing shoot-out with the BA and RUC, two republicans were wounded, and four others — Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, Séamas Finucane and Seán Lavery — were arrested.

Only a single revolver was found in the car, and at the men's subsequent trial in September 1977 all four received 14-year sentences for possession when they refused to recognise the court.

<>Joe hadn't volunteered for the earlier hunger strike, but his disillusion and anger at the british duplicity following the end of that hunger strike, led Joe to put his name forward in 1981. When his friend and comrade Bobby Sands died on the 66th day of his hunger strike, Joe McDonnell volunteered to take Bobby's place and continue that fight.
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At 5.11 a.m., on 8th July 1981 Joe McDonnell died after 61 days on hunger strike.


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