IRA Volunteer Martin Hurson
Edward Martin Hurson
was born 13th September 1956 in Cappagh near Dungannon in South Armargh as the 8th of nine children to a traditional Catholic farming family. Growing up in the predominantly Catholic and nationalist area of Tyrone, Martin experienced the feeling of close-knit communities and of national pride.
He was a fun-loving typical country boy who was very close with his siblings. A devout Catholic and a generally quiet person, everyone remembers Martin as a hard-working and likeable man. He lived a relatively innocent youth; away from the every day British repression. He would not experience the horror of this terrorism until he was nearly 20 years old.
He met the love of his life, Bernadette Donnelly, in the winter of 1975 at her sister's wedding in which Martin was the best man. She would later be a key figure in the hungerstrike campaigns in 1981.
In the spring of 1976, the RUC began to set up what the called "Regional Crime Squads" which were really just crack units of the sectarian
police force. Their primary mission was to ensure that convictions were made for all unsolved republican operations in their respective areas. Their only responsiblity, as then Deputy Chief Constable Ken Newman
is quoted as saying, was to "clear the books"
and "get results."
Martin was arrested in East Tyrone and taken to the Omagh RUC barracks on 11th November 1976. He was brutally tortured
for two days and nights. Beaten beyond any description that could do justice, Martin received repeatedblows to the head and back and was slapped, punched and kicked by multiple RUC officers. Men in adjoining rooms heard his terrible screaming. To avoid anymore of the terrible beatings, he signed documents that admitted his involvement in numerous republican operations in the East Tyrone area.
He was then transferred to Cookstown barracks where he filed a complaint about the treatment he received in Omagh. He was again beaten and threatened
to state that the documents he signed at Omagh were valid. Under great duress, he did so.
Martin was charged along with five other young men for a landmine explosion that occurred at Galbally in November 1975. He was able to beat this charge but the ensuing list of charges were ridiculous. They included: IRA membership, possesion of the landmine that caused the Galbally explosion, conspiracy to murder, and causing an explosion in Cappagh in fall of 1975. The Brits hadn't one shred of physical evidence to support their claims but Judge Rowland ruled that Martin's statements made at Omagh were enough to satisfy him. He chose to ignore
the reports by prison doctors that documented the extensive beating Martin took at the hands of the "police."
Martin was sentenced to twenty years
for possession of landmines and conspiracy to commit murder. An additional 15 years
was added for the IRA membership charge and five more
for an explosion that he had no part in. Martin appealed his conviction, but was denied, still a retrial was scheduled.
In this trial, the Omagh statements were ruled inadmissable in the court but the Cookstown statements were accepted. This was a complete contradiction seeing as both sets were signed under heavy pressure. Martin's sentence was not even shortened and he went to Long Kesh and straight onto the blanket. In prison, the British brutality did not end for Martin. He was beaten on a number of occasions and was one of the POWs repeatedly singled out for forced bathing during the no-wash protest.
At the end of May 1981, Martin joined the hungerstrike following Brendan McLaughlin's withdrawal due to a severe stomach ulcer that immediately threatened his life after only 3 weeks on strike. Already weakened from spending the last 5 years in and out of prison, Martin's condition deteriorated rapidly and after only 45 days refusing food, he died on July 13th.
Martin Hurson's death hit the Irish people especially hard coming so shortly after Joe McDonnell's
death and after only 45 days
on protest. His body just could not take anymore abuse and he left this world as an unbroken
Irishman. He and his comrades had shown that the British policy of criminalisation was a farce. This was proven again and again by the resolve of the blanket men and the hungerstrikers as well as by the large amount of votes received by prisoners in both Free State and Six County elections.
The British policy of criminalisation was wrong then and will never be right. Do not
let Republican POWs be treated as common criminals.
Martin Hurson bio on Ireland's Own
Irish Political Status Committee