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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

America Remembers Kieran Doherty TD.

40 Years ago Kieran Doherty died after 73 days on Hunger Strike. While on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh Prison he was elected as a TD (member of the Irish Parliament) for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency. Here Gerry Adams writes about his last meeting with his friend "Big Doc". Lean ar aghaidh is the Irish phase for "go ahead" or "continue on".

Gerry Adams ....

"I knew Big Doc. The last time I met him was a few days before he died. I was visiting the prison hospital to speak to the hunger strikers. After speaking to Tom McElwee, Lorny McKeown, Matt Devlin and others I walked into Big Doc’s cell. He was too weak to join the others. I had known Big Doc on the outside but there in that prison cell he was a shadow of himself.

Doc was propped up on one elbow, his eyes unseeing. He looked massive in his gauntness, as his eyes, fierce in their quiet defiance, scanned my face. I spoke to him quietly and slowly. I sat on the side of the bed.

I told him that he would soon be dead and that if he wanted I would leave the blocks and announce that the hunger strike was over. He paused momentarily, and said: “We haven’t got our five demands and that’s the only way I’m coming off. Too much suffered for too long, too many good men dead. Thatcher can’t break us. Lean ar aghaidh. I’m not a criminal.”

After that we talked quietly for a few minutes. As I left his cell we shook hands, an old internee’s handshake, firm and strong.

“Thanks for coming in”, he said, “I’m glad we had that wee yarn. Tell everyone, all the lads I was asking for them and…”

He continued to grip my hand. “Don’t worry, we’ll get our five demands. We’ll break Thatcher. Lean ar aghaidh... For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the Church, the SDLP. We won’t be broken. We’ll get our five demands. If I’m dead, well, the others will have them... I don’t want to died but that’s up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t. Tiocfaidh ár lá.”

Big Doc was right. Thatcher was beaten.

The political prisoners won their five demands. And today because of their self-sacrifice and that of countless others, Sinn Féin is the biggest party on the island of Ireland.

We refuse to allow anyone to delegitimise or criminalise the hunger strikers or our struggle. Kieran Doherty put in well in those final moments before we parted. “Lean ar aghaidh” – Go ahead."

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