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Conviction: attempted murder, possession of rifle & ammunition, membership of a proscribed organisation
Sentence: 14 years
Joined Hunger Strike: 22nd March
Suicided 21st May
The 7th child of 8 in a family from Carnlough, Co. Armagh, Raymond McCreesh became an IRA "volunteer" at the age of 16, having been brought up in a staunchly nationalist family, in a staunchly nationalist area. According to republican tributes he was a committed and aggressive 'hothead', very conscious of his Irishness.
In 1973 he joined na Fianna Eireann, supposedly an Irish version of the boy scouts, yet by the end of the year he had joined the IRA's 1st south Armagh battalion. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn't discuss politics (or his own 'activities') in the pub, and therefore didn't raise enough suspicions in the security forces to have to go into hiding. He had never even been arrested (or even held for screening) in Northern Ireland and was only held twice, both times briefly, in the Republic.
Despite this, he developed a reputation of a committed 'volunteer' at a time when the IRA were carrying out landmine attacks and ambushes throughout the area. Then on 25th June 1976 he was part of a 4 man unit who hijacked a car a mile from Carnlough at 9:25 pm with the aim of ambushing an observation post. Unbeknownst to them though, another observation post had already spotted them and radioed for reinforcements.
The driver carried on down the road in the car to the ambush point trying to lure the security forces out while McCreesh and the 2 other men moved down the hedges into position. On turning round though, the driver noticed soldiers closing down on his comrades and opened fire to warn them. The soldiers returned fire, striking the driver 3 times (unfortunately he still managed to escape). McCreesh and one comrade ran to a nearby house and tried, unsuccessfully, to steal another car. The pair eventually surrendered when the police arrived, while the fourth man was captured in a quarry as part of a follow-up operation the next day.
It later turned out that the first soldier to open fire that night was the same Lance-Corporal David Jones who was killed while on secondment to the SAS during the gun battle that led to the arrest of another IRA member turned hunger striker, Francis Hughes.
McCreesh was sentenced for 14 years in March 1977 following conviction for attempted murder, possession of a rifle and ammunition and membership of the IRA. Immediately after being imprisoned he joined the blanket protest and refused to accept family visits or send out monthly letters. He began refusing food on 22nd March 1981.
In this instance, McCreesh had been given the last rights and his family were advised that he had had a negative reaction to it. He seemed disoriented, and when asked if he wanted water replied that he didn't know. His family were asked if they wanted the doctor to intervene and transfer McCreesh to an outside ICU, but they declined, instead sending a telegram to Margaret Thatcher asking her to "save" their brother. The family believed that McCreesh was being drugged to keep him in a confused state, presumably in the hope that they would bring him off the hunger strike. They didn't, and he died on 21st May.