The death has taken place of Liam McCloskey, one of the surviving hunger strikers from 1981. Liam was originally from Dungiven, County Derry. He had been arrested in an early morning raid on his home in December 1976. Also arrested at that time was Kevin Lynch, his friend and comrade, whom Liam was to replace on hunger strike after Kevin’s death in August, 1981. The others arrested were Sean Coyle and Seamus McReynolds. They were convicted in December 1977 of stealing weapons and conspiring to take arms from British forces and were sentenced to ten years in jail.
Liam immediately joined the blanket protest and four years later volunteered for the hunger strike after Kevin’s death. Following the death of Mickey Devine, the tenth hunger striker, the protest began to lose momentum and potency as Fr Denis Faul, a prison chaplain, began urging families to order medical intervention once their loved ones became unconscious.
The hunger strike lasted 217 days and finally ended on 3rd October.
Liam reluctantly ended his fast on Saturday 26th September, 1981, after fifty-five days. His mother convinced him that she would intervene once he lapsed into a coma. In a statement issued at the time she said that she and her family fully supported the prisoners’ five demands, adding, ‘We don’t want our son nor his friends to live in the conditions that created this hunger strike.’
‘I don’t think Liam ever got over the hunger strike and Kevin’s death and the fact that he survived,’ said his comrade and former blanket man, Eunan Brolly.
After his release Liam left the Dungiven area and eventually settled in Buncrana in County Donegal where he lived with his partner, Monica. He embraced humanism and engaged in many peace and reconciliation projects. The last time many of his comrades would have seen him was at the blanket men reunion in Belfast in 2011.
Some years ago Liam spoke to the Derry Journal about his republicanism. He said: ‘Seeing civil rights marchers being beat off the streets and then shot off the streets, it seemed that taking up arms was the only option. I became interested in the republican cause, got involved with the Official IRA then the INLA. I was arrested with a number of others including Kevin Lynch who later died on hunger strike in 1981. I took Kevin’s place on hunger strike and came close to death.
‘After release in 1983, I was involved in reconciliation work. I went into third level education in 1988 and have been living and working in Donegal in the caring profession.’
Former comrades described Liam as a gentleman, ‘very quiet and very loyal’.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam.