seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Birth of Hunger Striker Edward Martin Hurson

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edward-martin-hursonEdward Martin Hurson, Irish republican hunger striker and a volunteer in the East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in Cappagh, County Tyrone, on September 13, 1956.

Hurson is one of nine children born to Johnnie and Mary Ann Hurson. Both of his parents come from the Cappagh district, and every member of the family is born into the white-washed farmhouse perched precipitously on top of the thirty hilly acres of rough land. Martin is close to the land as he grows up. He is educated to a primary level at Crosscavanagh Primary School in Galbally and at secondary level in St. Patrick’s, Galbally. When he is not at school he is more often than not helping out about the farm, driving a tractor, helping to rear “croppy pigs,” or looking after cattle.

After leaving school, he works as an apprentice fitter welder for a while before going to Manchester, England where he stays for eighteen months with his brother Francis and works in the building trade. Returning to County Tyrone around Christmas of 1974, both he and his brother spend time in Bundoran, County Donegal, a known IRA training and supply centre.

Hurson, together with Kevin O’Brien, Dermot Boyle, Peter Kane, and Pat O’Neill are arrested and taken to the Omagh Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) barracks on November 11, 1976. He is beaten about the head, back, and testicles, spread-eagled against a wall and across a table, slapped, punched, and kicked. Under torture Martin signs statements admitting involvement in republican activity. On Saturday night, November 13, Martin is charged with a landmine explosion at Galbally in November 1975.

This charge is later dropped, but he is then further charged with IRA membership and explosive offences. Hurson spends a year on remand before being convicted in November 1977 and sentenced to 20 years for possession of landmines and conspiracy. He appeals his conviction on the grounds that the judge had ignored medical evidence about his ill-treatment.

The appeal is dismissed but he is granted a retrial. At the four-day trial in September 1979, the Omagh statements are ruled inadmissible, but instead of Martin walking free the judge goes on to accept the admissibility of the Cookstown statements, themselves extracted under threat of renewed torture. Following his retrial he appeals his conviction once again, challenging the admissibility of the Cookstown statements, but his appeal is disallowed in June 1980.

Hurson becomes engaged to his long-term girlfriend, Bernadette Donnelly, while in prison. He is part of the blanket protest and joins the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike on May 28, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLaughlin who withdraws following a perforated stomach ulcer.

He loses the ability to hold down water after approximately 40 days on hunger strike, and suffers a horrifically agonising death due to dehydration at 4:30 AM on July 13, after only 46 days on hunger strike, considerably shorter than any other hunger striker. Near the end his family considers the possibility of intervening to save his life, but they are told that he will likely have permanent brain damage.

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