On August 20th the Irish Republican Socialist Party in Belfast held a dignified white line vigil in memory of H-Block martyr, INLA Hunger Striker Michael Devine who died 34 Years ago after 60 days without food. The white line vigil took place on the Falls Road.
Michael Divine was the last of 10 Volunteers who died during the 1981 Hunger Strike in the hard fought struggle to gain political Status in the face of an intransigent Thatcherite prison administration.
‘Red Mickey’ as he was affectionately known both in the H-Blocks and in his native Derry city, was a former member of the Derry Labour movement, the Civil Rights Association as well as the Official IRA before becoming a founding member of the IRSP and the INLA after the formation of the modern Republican Socialist movement in 1974.
His was a life immersed in the National and Class Struggle. An active participant in the creation and defence of the Free Derry liberated zone in 1969, Michael Devine not only committed himself to armed defence of his people but also to the vital (although less glamorous) task of political organisation and social mobilisation.
An eyewitness to the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972, this event and its aftermath confirmed to him that Armed Struggle against the Britain State was a vital component in the Struggle to Liberate Ireland and the Working Class.
On witnessing the lying in state of the Para’s 13 victims, Michael Devine stated… “That sight more than anything convinced me that there will never be peace in Ireland while Britain remains. When I looked at those coffins I developed a commitment to the republican cause that I have never lost.”
His steadfast commitment to Armed Struggle saw Red Mickey naturally follow the path of Seamus Costello when he moved to oppose the creeping reformist position of the Officials and created the Irish Republican Socialist Movement.
Arrested on the evening of September 20th, 1976, after an arms raid on a private Donegal weaponry – from which the INLA commandeered several rifles and shotguns, and three thousand rounds of ammunition – Michael Devine spent 9 months on remand in Belfast’s Crumlin Road prison.
Upon being sent to the H-Blocks Michael Devine embarked upon the ongoing Blanket and No-wash ‘dirty’ protest, suffering horrendous conditions and maltreatment for 4 years.
In 1980 he briefly joined the first Hunger Strike which was to end without resolution, then on June 22nd 1981, as part of a rolling Hunger Strike incorporating both IRA & INLA prisoners, he joined Joe McDonnell, Kieran Doherty, Kevin Lynch, Martin Hurson, Thomas McElwee and Paddy Quinn on a Hunger Strike to the death.
Micky died at 7.50 am on Thursday, August 20th 1981 aged 27. Had he not commenced protest he would have been eligible for release the following September, instead he chose to fight on and to the death. He was a father of two.
Speaking tonight Gerard Foster and Gerard Hodgins (both former H-Block prisoners) spoke of what Michael Divines sacrifice meant to them, of the legacy of the period and the debt which today’s Republicans and Republican Socialists owe both the men of 1981 and all other Hunger Strikers who gave their lives for political status and the wider Irish Freedom Struggle.