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Friday, 13 July 2012

13 July 1981: Martin Hurson died on Hunger strike in Long Kesh on the 44th day of his fast on this day.

He was born on September 12th, 1956, in the townland of Aughnaskea, Cappagh, near Dungannon, the eighth of nine children: six girls and three boys. His father was a small farmer who worked the land in which Martin helped out as a lad.

After a spell working in England he returned home at Christmas 1974. Soon afterwards became involved in actions against the British Crown Forces. He was arrested and taken to Omagh RUC barracks on November 11th, 1976, along with six others arrested that day and two days previously. He was beaten about the head, back and testicles, spread-eagled against a wall and across a table, slapped, punched and kicked. He eventually confessed but later retracted these statements as they were extracted under torture.

Martin Hurson was tried and convicted of involvement in three IRA landmine incidents, one at Cappagh in September and one at Galbally in November 1975 and a third at Reclain in February 1976 when several members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment narrowly escaped being killed. He received concurrent sentences of twenty, fifteen and five years for these convictions

His appeals to the Courts against conviction went on until June 1980 but the charges were upheld. He went 'on the blanket' from the start of being sent into Long Kesh as a convicted prisoner.

On May 29th, 1981, Martin joined the hunger-strike, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLoughlin who was forced to drop out because of a burst stomach ulcer.

In the 26 County General Election in June, Martin was a candidate in Longford/Westmeath, and although missing election, obtained almost four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count, outlasting two Labour candidates and a Fine Gael contender.

Having seriously deteriorated after over forty days on hunger-strike, he was unable to hold down water and died after only forty-four days on hunger-strike, at 4.30am on Monday, July 13th.

Thousands of mourners attended his funeral a few days later when he was laid to rest in his townland of Cappagh Co Tyrone. An IRA Colour Party gave the final salute before his coffin was lowered into the ground.