Friday, 10 February 2017


I had the GREAT PRIVILEGE and also the GREAT SORROW of ministering to the TEN HUNGER STRIKERS as they died in LONG KESH PRISON in 1981.

Those ten young men were:

Bobby Sands
Francis Hughes
Patsy O'Hara
Raymond McCreesh
Joe McDonnell
     Martin Hurson
  Kevin Lynch
      Kieran Doherty
            Thomas McElwee, 
     Michael Devine
5 May 81
66 days
12 May 81
59 days
21 May 81
61 days
21 May 81
61 days
8 July 81
61 days
13 July 81
46 days
1 Aug 81
71 days
2 Aug 81
73 days
8 Aug 81
62 days
20 Aug 81
60 days
This is how my involvement came about:

I was a curate in St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast from August 1978 until February of 1983. I volunteered to be part of the panel of priests that said Sunday Mass in Long Kesh Prison. One Sunday after Mass one of the prison officers asked me if I would take Holy Communion to a prisoner in the Hospital Wing. Of course I immediately agreed.

I was driven by a prison van from where I was in the prison to the hospital wing. I discovered that the prisoner who had requested Holy Communion was the leader of the 1981 Hunger Strike - Bobby Sands.  

After I have him Communion I said to him: "Could I sit a while and chat to you"? He answered: "Only if you are not going to lecture me about the morality of hunger strikes". I replied: "I do not lecture anyone about anything".

We had a very interesting conversation and I immediately liked and respected him. At the end of the conversation he asked me if I would return to the Hospital Wing and celebrate Sunday Masses for the hunger strikers. I was more than happy to agree. 

The next Sunday I arrived back to find that only Bobby Sands was waiting for Mass. The other hunger strikers were refusing to come to Mass as the Catholic Hierarchy were condemning their Hunger Strike. I was taking a very different, non judgmental and respecting line.

Bobby Sands who was the Long Kesh IRA commander went and ORDERED the other nine men to attend my Masses and they complied. 

Out time in the hospital room was spent by first celebrating a Mass which was deliberately not too long ot taxing and spending the rest of the time chatting about the hunger strike and all other things political, religious and social.

As time went on and the ten got weaker I would go to their individual rooms and chat with them, pray with them if they wanted, hear their Confessions if they wanted and generally sit and provide friendship and company. 

When they died I attended ALL their funerals in spite of being ordered not to by my cathedral boss Father Vincent Mc Kinley.

I would also gather with the ladies of the parish at the back of the Cathedral every evening at about 5 pm to pray the Rosary for the Hunger Strikers. On several occasions McKinley came to the back of the cathedral and ordered me away from the Rosary groups and I always refused to believe - even when he screamed at me in front of the group: "Get the f*** out of here". 


On the night Bobby Sands died on May 5th 1981 the women called at the presbytery door at 2 am in the morning for me and I led an open air Rosary in front of the presbytery.

McKinley had told me that I could pray for the hunger strikers but that I could not be seen to pray for them !!!

It was another occasion when I was punished in the presbytery in a number of ways for siding with the people and not with the Clerical Club.


Some Catholic clergy - to please the Brits - said that the Hunger Strike was "suicide" and therefore immoral!


People who commit suicide want to die and want to end their lives and get away from their pain.

The Hunger Strikers DID NOT WANT TO DIE.



Their moral position was quite clear:

1. They regarded themselves as fighting a JUST WAR against the British.

2. They regarded their Hunger Strike as the last weapon they possessed in their war.

3. They clearly found inspiration for this moral view from the words of Christ: "No man can have any greater love than to lay down their lives for their friends".

We can argue from the point of view of OBJECTIVE MORALITY that they were wrong or misguided - and on this there are many views.

But we cannot argue from the point of view of SUBJECTIVE MORALITY that they were wrong.

They were clearly following their own well thought out moral position. In other words they were following their conscience.

As I look back on that time I feel sad. Some of these young men were younger than me at the time and would perhaps now be husbands, fathers, grandfathers - and indeed involved in the political process.

But I also look back with IMMENSE ADMIRATION for the COURAGE and DETERMINATION they showed as they faced down the British Empire with its reputation for its many horrors.

In some way I may have shown a bit of courage in my own life. But I feel dwarfed  in the shadow of BOBBY SANDS AND HIS NINE COMPANIONS.

He is one of the people I look forward to meeting when I depart for the MYSTERIOUS SHORE.


Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God's command.
Honour them the faithful few,
All hail to Daniel's band.

Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known!



  1. The circumstances that led to the Hunger Strike are complex. But none of the strikers should have had to die. A compassionate government would have conceded their demands. Sadly, the Hunger Strikers died in vain and their sacrifice was pointless. Perhaps that is why the Catholic Church tried to discourage them? The British Empire, as you put it, was not defeated. It still reigns supreme (though it ceased to be an empire after WW2). As a result of the death of these idealists, their senior colleagues were able to thrive and prosper and in due course enjoy their share of the perks of being paid servants of the British Empire. Pat, as you have pointed out with the Church, it is all to do with money and power. The Hunger Strikers were exploited and betrayed by the cause they died to support. It suited Sinn Fraud to get them out of the way.

    1. I don't see how their deaths were pointless. 10 deaths were hardly going to bring down the English empire, even if those dead were to include the next 10 in line of succession to the throne with the prime minister and cabinet thrown in as a bonus prize. It was all a part of the struggle, part of a long war against a vastly superior enemy. Knock out punches to the enemy aren't realistic at all in such a context. If the deaths of the hunger strikers were in vain, were their imprisonment in vain? Were the charges and activities that led them to being imprisoned in vain? Was the entire conflict after 1969 in vain? Would it have been better, to have rolled over like a beaten cur with one's belly exposed and taken the kicks along with the occasional scraps from the high table that might have been thrown in their direction? The Catholic Church might have advised that to others, but whenever it was kicked, it never responded with the same meekness it would preach.

    2. During all this the Catholic Church juggled the Rome,London and London balls with a view to protecting its own interests.

    3. Their deaths were pointless. They died in expectations of achieving the objective of uniting Ireland. That was why they gave their lives. There was no other reason. They did not want to die. But they were betrayed by their 'comrades'. You ask 'would it have been better to have rolled over like a beaten cur', but that is exactly what Sinn Fraud did after they died. It suited Sinn Fraud to be rid of the Hunger Strikers. That is why it did not intervene. It milked them for the last drop of publicity and used a dying man to stand as stooge MP just for the photo ops. The Catholic Church's 'role' was irrelevant. It had no role.

  2. They were terrorists.

    1. So was Nelson Mandela according to the South African whites!

  3. The Church likes to creep and crawl in front of the gentry and elites in the same way it makes the poor and ignorant creep and crawl to the cross. Irish history, among many others, is full of cases where the Roman Church sided with the elites, native or foreign, to oppress the people and divide them along confessional lines in order to maintain its power. Fuck Ireland and its savages when a more wide-reaching alliance could be made with England instead. Fuck the dirty and ignorant poor of Divis when one human life is not worth the whole of Ireland but the blood of hundreds of thousands if not millions can be spilt for the glory of God and the Throne of St Peter.

  4. As I said on yesterday's blog Pat is more than just a dressed up candlestick. It's important to be aware of issues like the above which mark the depth and sincerity of your ministry.

    1. To me these 10 young men needed my ministry and my companionship on their hard road. Ministering to them brought me many graces.

    2. May God bless you always for your courage and kindness.

  5. I agree with you on much, Bishop Pat, but not on the hunger strikers.

    Yes, it was right to pray for them, perhaps even publicly on occasion; but only someone extraordinarily naive would be oblivious to the political perception this could create. In a time when Northern Ireland was convulsed by an armed savagery that was frequently devoid of conscience...on all sides, perception was sometimes much more dangerous, and lethal, than reality. People were murdered because of false perception. As Christians, we are called to love one another, for sure...but not without prudence for the welfare (the lives) of others.

    I find your reference to 'the British Empire with its reputation for its many horrors' puzzling coming from a priest who was brought by IRA men, on at least one occasion, to hear the confession of a so-called 'informant'. The man had been interrogated (IRA-speak for 'sadistically tortured'),convicted in one of the IRA's kangaroo courts (no barristers here, no right of appeal), and for whose life you pleaded. But your plea fell, hopelessly and inevitably, on the deaf ears of these cruel murderers.

    If the British Empire had a reputation for horrors, so, too, had the IRA, and other factions in Northern Ireland. And, boy! Were these reputations well deserved all round? It is why I would never lionise any of them. Not even the hunger strikers, whose lives were not so much laid down as squandered, wasted on terrorising others when they could instead have loved them.

    1. I agree with you about the terrible atrocities if the IRA and their absolute savagery.

      I am not and have never been a Republican in the IRA sense.

      I had many battles with the Republicans in both Belfast and Kilkeel and on more than one occasion they threatened to give me a "wooden overcoat".

      It is sad to have to admit that it took them to get rid if the Old Storment.

      I dealt with the Hunger Strikers like a shepherd deals with his sheep.

      It seems that Providence has made me a shepherd of "black sheep" of all kinds. But I rejoice in this.

  6. 'I find your reference to 'the British Empire with its reputation for its many horrors' puzzling coming from a priest who was brought by IRA men, on at least one occasion, to hear the confession of a so-called 'informant'. The man had been interrogated (IRA-speak for 'sadistically tortured'),convicted in one of the IRA's kangaroo courts (no barristers here, no right of appeal), and for whose life you pleaded. But your plea fell, hopelessly and inevitably, on the deaf ears of these cruel murderers.' The British Empire, as all empires did, do and will do, ruled by force and coercion, dressed up in the robes of a grand civilising mission. The Irish elites, if the boot had been on the other foot, would have done the same. People, Irish or English, fall for the same bigotry peddled by their betters. However, your argument presumes the legitimacy of the English state presence in Ireland. It assumes that the structures and mechanisms of power and justice, as administered by the Crown, were legitimate and that the IRA and fellow travellers were merely murderous insurgents rebelling against a lawful authority and that their tactics were in someway spectacularly brutal in comparison to say anything the English might have ever done, at home or abroad. How many people did the IRA kill compared to the British over Hamburg or Dresden? How many in comparison to the numbers killed in Iraq and wherever else the Butcher's Apron has flown?

    1. I certainly did not mean that the British presence in Ireland was legitimate.

      I agree about the IRA atrocities.

      The Brits, the Germans and the USA have all done worse.

      In the midst if it all we can only look after those in our circuit - which is what I tried to do.

      I would have done the same if the 10 in the hospital were 10 British soldiers.

    2. The more powerful you are, the worse you are- as you can be. It's fine talking about the early Church and Christ turning the other cheek and St Peter being told to put away his sword when confronted with a vastly stronger and numerous enemy, but whenever that balance of power changes, the Martyred church becomes the Church Militant as history has constantly shown.

    3. My mother came from Larne and was Catholic. My father came from Lancaster and was originally Anglican. The Brits had their empire, but the Irish had a spiritual empire which spread all over the world. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

    4. It would be interesting to trace the expansion of the Irish Church and its missionaries alongside the expansion of clerical child abuse. My gut always suggests there's a link there to be reviewed..

  7. Would you read my comment again 10:39, this time without those now unfashionable, green-tinted specs of yours? I didn't argue from any perspective other than a Christian one. (Which, incidentally, is the only perspective realistically open to a Christian). It's why I said 'I would never lionise ANY of them (the armed factions in Northern Ireland)'. This, of course, includes what republicans called 'Crown Forces'.

    I didn't deny the moral excesses of any empire, much less the British Empire. It's why I said: 'If the British Empire had a reputation for horrors, so, too, had the IRA, and other factions in Northern Ireland.'

    Nor did I presume the legitimacy of 'the English state presence in Ireland'; you inferred it. I presumed nothing other than the moral obligation to condemn the 'horrors' committed by ALL factions in this brutal conflict.

  8. It's hard to be Daniel I should know having the same name. I grew up with the troubles on the front lines you could say. I saw the streets run red with the blood of friends and foes. I watched how our own inhumanity over took both sides for a cause that seemed just and true.
    I prayed the Rosary on the street corners with other children and their mothers in the little hope for peace.
    Now I hope that my children will make a difference in this still divided society that fight over a piece of cloth on a pole in Magherafelt or a language that should be preserved by all for its the heritage of all on this island.

    I can agree with Pat on the narrow mindedness of the clergy they have as much intransigence as the rioters on the streets. I have walked into many a lions den as a carer in the community and displayed my faith on my sleeve entering the debates of the rights and wrongs but cutting it all down to the Love of God and his command Love thy neighbour thy enmey as thy self.

    Yeah my name is Daniel and I will pull the throne out of any hand foot or heart if it makes a difference. Life is too short and was too short for the likes of hunger strikers. We should all use it for the GOOD in whatever way we think that is.

    For some it will be about raising the wrongs of the church to get tgem corrected.
    For others it will be getting hardened hearts changed to love the LGBT people of God.
    It could go on but you know what I mean.

    I believe that we should all be about the biblical Daniel in whatever way. Thus ends the rants of a warbbling DANIEL

  9. I do not have green tinted glasses in any way. I despise nationalisms and all the crap that goes with them. What is the point of fighting for a nation if at the end of the day all you are doing is changing your rulers from a foreign elite to a native elite and the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. My glasses may be red tinted but definitely not green. Jesus said turn the other cheek. He said pay Caesar what he is due. If such thinking were taken literally, Christianity would have utterly perished before the Huns, the Persians, Islam, the Mongols and ubiquitous Nazis to name just a few. Of course, he also said that the rich were damned to hell but that shouldn't be taken so literally. Turn the other cheek legitimates the status quo and invites further exploitation. Turn the other cheek to bullies and you are beaten to a pulp. Smack them back hard enough and they behave differently. The IRA killed a thousand or so and blighted the lives of thousands more. The British state killed millions and blighted the lives of millions more. How many women and children did the RAF, Custer fashion, burn alive with phosphorus in cities like Hamburg and Berlin while the men were off fighting the Russians? And was that not a war in the defence of freedom as well? A just war, may I say? Horrors should be condemned but horrors do not suddenly occur in isolation to all other factors. The underlying causes of injustice should be dealt with, axe to the roots style. And when confronting sheer naked power, the holders of such force never go gently or willingly into the night.

    1. Let me make myself clear to you, 10:39/11:51: I am one of the few Christians who take our Lord seriously and turn the other cheek. Not an easy task for one who is, by nature, a fighter and who, by nature, would belt you back a lot harder than you hit him. But I know that this is not what our Lord wants of me, and so I struggle with my nature. On those few occasions when, by God's grace, I have managed to stay my fists, or bite my tongue (literally at times, on one of them drawing blood), I have seen his power at work, not always right away, but always. That power will NEVER be realised, and we will never have the privilege of beholding its efficacy and its appeal to deeper faith, unless we submit ourselves to his commands. For when we rely on ourselves too much, when we seek to deal with our afflictions in our own ways, we tie his hands. We deprive ourselves of miracle after minor miracle (and, sometimes, more than minor miracles), that would not only empower and embolden each of us to convert ever more deeply, confidently and joyously, but which would empower our words of evangelization with an appeal that would split the hardest of recalcitrant hearts.

      Are you aware of what the Mother of God told the three children at Fatima? Unless enough people pray and convert, there will be another and worse war. Few listened to her on the power of sincere prayer and conversion to divert the course of humanity from the most destructive war in its history. Even the Vatican (which approved the apparitions 13 years later), decided to hedge its bets by making a concordat with the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, to protect its territory and sovereignty. So much for moral leadership from on high.

      Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote that 'more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of'. He was right, as was the Mother of God at Fatima. But few are listening, and God's presence is shaded by our lack of faith and our idolatrous over self-reliance.

      So, no surprise when I tell you that I do not agree with you on approaches to human violence, whether on a personal, national, or international level.

      Christianity would not have perished before the Huns if those Christians had been obedient to our Lord's command and allowed him freedom, through their unqualified faith in him, to do all that he could efficaciously and victoriously have done.

      Jesus is as near, or as remote, as our faith in him permits or precludes.

  10. "Bobby Sands ordered them to attend MY [sic] Mass..." Says it all really!

    1. They were anti church as the church was in cohoots with the Brits.

      Sands told them that I was not in line with the church's politicking.

  11. A blog on the Birmingham six Pat would be interesting too so as to educate people of what actually happened. Excellent blog today. R.I.P to all the Hunger Strikers.

  12. The greatest part of this tragedy is that these men are used as pawns in the games of others; the PIRA; SF; the British Government; the Church. I agree they paid the ultimate price for love of Ireland, but over 30 years on I fear their deaths were in vain.

  13. Pat I think you are over playing your role in the Hunger Strikes. I know for a fact that your are only involved on the margins. The loins share of the work was done by Monsignor Dennis Paul and Father John Magee (St John Paul II's private secretary and envoy). These two outstanding men actually persuade the British Government to give the prisoners their demands. The sad thing is that Thatcher reneged on the agreement. It was only implemented after the deaths and the Strike being called off.

    1. Where did I claim a role in the Hunger Strike?

      I only wrote about my ministry to them in the Hospital Wing.

      They did not like Denis F as he was anti Republican and anti hunger strike and put pressure on their families.

      John M visited once with crucifixes and rosaries.

      The RC church was in cohoots with the Brits.

  14. Certainly some aspects of the Church hierarchy "were in cahoots with the Brits" as you so elegantly put it, but not all in the Church by any means. Are you suggesting that Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich was in league with the British? I think and know not. Father Magee was a well known Republican sympathiser from Newry and was very influential on the Pope. Thathcher refused to meet him, even though this meeting had ben requested by the Holy See. The Bristol Embassy in Rome also leaked details of what was a top secret mission ahead of time to do everything they could to thwart what the Holy Father was trying to do which which too allow the men to come off their fast and do so with heads held high.You need to have a more nuanced approach to historical fact Pat.

    1. British Embassy not Bristol (obviously)

    2. I visited and spoke to Tomas O Fiaich on several occasions in Armagh about the Hunger Strike and at the time of the Hunger Strike.

      He told me that he was caught between the Brits and anti IRA bishops like Cahal Daly.

      I like Tomas O'Fiaich but his balls were not quite as big as they should have been.

      For instance he stood by and allowed the Irish Bishops to shaft Father Gerard McGinnity of Maynooth.

      In fact Tomas was the one who delivered the cup of poison to McGinnity on the bishop's behalf!

      I lived through this period in Irish history.

      I also studied it and have a master's degree in Irish history.

      I am perfectly nuanced about it.

    3. Nuanced indeed. O'Fiaich has received wholesome praise from you in previous posts but of course he cannot be perfect as, as McGinnity's Bishop he didn't champion his cause...

  15. I know someone who was in the IRA in the North at the time of the troubles. After being raised as a Catholic and being very devout, he had rejected God and was an atheist. He was on remand and being tried for a weapons offence. His lawyer told him to expect a 10 to 15 year sentence and he decided to commit suicide. Having made this decision, he happened to find a religious card with a prayer to Padre Pio in his cell. He wondered how it could have got there as his two cell-mates were atheists like him. He read it and said, 'OK if there is a God, prove it to me here and now'. At that Our Lady appeared in the cell and a conversation followed. He was assured that all would be well. He came before one of the few Catholic judges in N.I. and was sentenced to three years of which he had already served a good amount on remand.
    Perversely, this good news carried with it some bad news, instead of being transferred to an IRA wing of a prison, he was to remain in Belfast Gaol to complete his sentence. The gaol's prisoners were predominantly Protestant paramilitaries who (along with the Protestant staff) were more than a little upset at his short sentence and decided to 'put matters right'. He was living in fear but then came to the conclusion that Our Lady had not saved him from a long prison sentence only for him to be killed or seriously injured while in prison. He escaped two attempts on his life and was released in good health. He is a committed and deeply traditional Catholic now who does good work evangelising others, especially in advising fellow Catholics to take their problems to Our Lady with faith.

    1. Yes, I understand that man still works as a taxidriver in Belfast. He is very dedicated to saying the daily Rosary and encouraging others to do so and he knows the power of prayer. In spite of Daily Mail paying out sums of money to people who agreed for publicity's sake to try to discredit Padre Pio, the wonderful saint has wrought miracles too numerous to count all over the world. Many of them concerned those in prison and people in impossible abusive situations. One of the most high profile would be Cardinal Mindse ndty in his prison cell but most were ordinary people(with great faith of course) It is inspiring to go online and read a few of the many, many testimonials to Padre Pio's extraordinary interventions.


    Some Catholic clergy - to please the Brits - said that the Hunger Strike was "suicide" and therefore immoral!

    Whoooa now! How do you know that some of your fellow priests took that line 'to please the Brits'. Could you read their hearts and minds? Seems very judgemental to me.

    1. The FOUR of them I lived with did!

      And many others I talked to DID.

      The prison chaplain Fr Tom Toner was also Bishop Philbin's secretary. He was a prison governors lap dog and Philbin was fiercely anti IRA.

      I was am am judging on what I saw, heard and saw acted out.

  17. As any follower of Christ should be. I hope you are not now saying that you are a supporter of Paramilitary violence Pat. The IRA were and are a vicious and pernicious force in Belfast, the north and in Ireland and the UK. I salute Bishops Philbin and Daly for the courageous way in which they stood up to the men and women of violence who dragged down the land and people they claimed to cherish.

  18. Dear Bishop Pat!

    I am sending you an interesting piece:

    this should be something that you could write a blog about, even tomorrow's one

    especially given the recent planned ordination of a certain deacon

    Pope Francis says this:

    "Abuse is thus sowed in the future and this is devastating. If priests or religious are involved it is clear that the devil is at work, who ruins the work of Jesus through those who should proclaim him. But let’s be clear: this is a disease. If we are not convinced that this is a disease, we cannot solve the problem. So pay attention when receiving candidates for the religious life and ensure that they are sufficiently emotionally mature. For example: never accept in a religious community or diocese a candidate that has been rejected by another seminar or another institute without asking for very clear and detailed information on the reasons for their rejection."

    notice the last sentence!

    let's keep the pressure on maynooth

  19. I don't salute Daly in this regard, he was abhorred by Republicans and Nationalists, he remains so. A supporter of the British Establishment, he only got his appointment to Armagh courtesy of Whitehall. A well known tout running of to the RUC every two minutes with any tit bit of information. I don't salute this pathetic excuse for a man, I despise him and so do many others he has caused hurt and pain to. How many Christian funerals did he try to stop because of the Tricolour on the coffin? The immense hurt and pain caused to suffering and grieving families is immeasurable and is still well remembered. Salute him all you like Sir but his cold unchristian and calculating legacy will never be forgotten.

    1. To be fair, the Church bans any national flag, including the Union Jack, from being displayed at funerals. A rule that seems very proper to me.

  20. I would be moved by this if Pat had stuck to his pastoral role, but in fact he seems up to his neck in IRA propaganda. I think it would be a tragedy for Ireland if children were to glorify the hunger strikers or any other IRA men, because it would sow the seeds of future terrorism (and there is no guarantee that terrorist traditions will not revive or even become endemic).

  21. I remember you well Buckley in St Peter's. I remember you as a frequent visitor to our family home and that of countless others in Divis. I remember as a young lad looking at you as a community leader- decent, engaged and fearless. Your recollection of standing up to the powers that be from McKinnley to Daly to be true and honest. From dealing with joyriders to the big clean up and the Brit's as true. I do believe you have a generous view of yourself connected to Bobby Sands and the other brave nine. I know. I was there.Stick to your truth for what it means. There's always someone who remembers more. Present in the detail. Never divorce yourself from the truth. Your truth
    Witnessed, loved and supported by others. Buckley cease becoming a character in your own narcissistic fantasy. Return to your own truth that was ever present; decent and evidenced.
    You're better than the scandal, sexual libel/obsession and innuendo. Make the time count for your decency and compassion. Return to yourself for what matterst. All of this tittle-tattle is clerical bullshit and means very little.

    Be the person your lovely Mother Joe wanted you to be.

    God speed.