ON THIS DATE (12TH FEBRUARY) 43 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF AN IRISH REPUBLICAN WHO WAS 'BURIED' BY FREE STATERS UNDER SIX FEET OF CONCRETE.
And freedom's light aglow
When some IRA had gathered in a graveyard in Mayo.
Those brave Irish Freedom fighters
Who came together in the West
Had come to fill the promise to lay Frank Stagg at rest.'
'Frank Stagg was the seventh child in a family of thirteen children, born at Hollymount near Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, in 1942. Stagg was educated to primary level at Newbrooke Primary School and at CBS Ballinrobe to secondary level. After finishing his education, he worked as an assistant gamekeeper with his uncle prior to emigrating from Ireland to England in search of work. In England, Frank was employed as a bus conductor and later qualified as a bus driver. In 1970 he married Bridie Armstrong from Carnicon, Co Mayo. He joined Sinn Féin in Luton in 1972 and shortly afterwards joined the IRA. Frank remained in touch with home and spent his annual holidays in Hollymount up to the year of his arrest and imprisonment in 1973. In the words of his mother, "he never forgot he was Irish..." ' (From here.)
Frank Stagg had begun his fourth (and final) hunger strike in late 1975 - having been convicted under the notorious 'British Conspiracy Laws' - as it was the only 'weapon' he had at his disposal with which to impress on his British captors his desire to be repatriated to Ireland. He died, blind and weighing just four stone, in Wakefield Prison on 12th February 1976, after 62 days on hunger strike.
His remains were hijacked by suited, uniformed and armed members of the State, acting under orders from FS Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and his 'Justice' Minister, Paddy Cooney - the airplane carrying his coffin was diverted from Dublin to Shannon and, when it landed, the Special Branch surrounded it and forcibly removed the coffin and buried it, supported by an armed escort, under six feet of concrete in Leigue Cemetery in Ballina, County Mayo, in a grave purchased by the Free Staters and which was located about 70 meters from the Republican Plot in that cemetery ; on that day - Saturday, 21st February, 1976 - the Requiem Mass was boycotted by almost all his relatives.
When questioned in Leinster House about this sordid affair, its 'Director', Paddy Cooney, stated - "The persistent attempts by members of an unlawful organisation and their associates to exploit the situation that arose are well known and, indeed, notorious. Because of this and because also of certain obligations of confidentiality, I must decline to make any comment on the question of the choice of burial place.."The "question of the choice of burial place" was, thankfully, not one that was left to Cooney and his thugs to decide. Frank Stagg, aged 33, had three funerals and two burials. One funeral had no body and one burial was done in darkness. In his final message to his comrades in the Republican Movement he wrote : "We are the risen people, this time we must not be driven into the gutter. Even if this should mean dying for justice. The fight must go on. I want my memorial to be peace with justice." That objective has still to be obtained and those in Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster are still working against it, still pouring 'concrete' on Irish republicanism. Shame on them.
Thanks for reading , Sharon. Back with a full post on Wednesday, 20th February 2019.