Recalling the sacrifices of the H-Block hunger-strikers, Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness speaking at the annual wreathlaying ceremony held in Bellaghy graveyard yesterday compared the unconquerable spirit of Thomas McElwee to that of the ‘Bold Fenian’ O’Donovan Rossa who was remembered at centenary commemorations and events the previous weekend.
Mr McGuinness pointed to how in the face of brutality within the British prison system, both men remained unbowed and unbroken before pointing out the leadership qualities displayed by Thomas during the course of his harsh imprisonment by the British state.
His comments echoed the words of Danny Morrison when describing the young Bellaghy man during the course of an oration at Thomas’ funeral as being “...invincible from beginning to end, in life as well as in death.”
For Thomas’ many friends and comrades who were assembled among the large crowd at Sunday’s commemorative event, it was easy to recall that the roots of the Hunger-Strike were built into the British H-Blocks, into the policy of criminalisation which forced the men on the Blanket 5 years previously and which led ultimately to republicans resorting to the traditional weapon of hunger strike as the ultimate means of gaining their demands.
Martin McGuinness during the course of his Bellaghy address pointed to the historic task of republicans and progressives needing to win Irish freedom.