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Former H-Block prisoner visits Leinster House for the first time - 37 years after being elected a TD

Agnew was one of the “blanketmen”.

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, TDs Imelda Munster, Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald, Paddy Agnew, Gerry Adams & Catherine Agnew
Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, TDs Imelda Munster, Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald, Paddy Agnew, Gerry Adams & Catherine Agnew
Image: Sinn Féin

FORMER H-BLOCK PRISONER Paddy Agnew visited Leinster House yesterday – some 37 years after he was elected a TD.

Agnew was one of three republican prisoners elected during the 1981 hunger strikes. Elected as a TD for Louth, Agnew joined Kieran Doherty, who was elected in Cavan-Monaghan and Bobby Sands, who was elected an MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

He held his seat until 1982, but never entered the Dáil.

Agnew was one of the “blanketmen”, who refused to wear prison uniforms during a five-year political protest at the notorious prison.

Yesterday he and his wife Catherine were welcomed by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl and by the Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald presented Agnew with the formal framed statement from the Returning Officer of his election to the Dáil.

She said:

It’s 37 years later and Paddy has finally come across the threshold of Leinster House. Many of those involved in Sinn Féin today were not born at that time but they and we are part of a struggle which is about achieving Irish unity. I believe we have the exceptional privilege of living through an unprecedented opportunity to end partition. That is within our grasp.

Gerry Adams, who invited the Agnews to visit the Dáil, said:

Paddy was imprisoned on several occasions for his republican activities. He spent time in Portlaoise, Mountjoy, Crumlin Road prisons and in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. He was first imprisoned in 1973. In 1977, he was captured with Arthur Morgan and others on a boat in Carlingford Lough. He was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment and like hundreds more at that time went on the blanket protest against the British government’s criminalisation policy. It was a cruel and brutal prison regime.

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“It was decided to stand prisoner candidates from the H-Blocks and Armagh Women’s prison in the June 1981 general election. Kieran Doherty, who subsequently died on 2 August after 73 days on hunger strike, and Paddy, were both elected to the Dáil on 11 June 1981.

Agnew was released from prison in 1986 and joined Sinn Féin in Dundalk.

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