O'Neill, veteran Irish Republican activist and former
Hunger Striker, led the Chicago unit of the Irish
Freedom Committee in Saturday's St. Patrick's Day
parade in Downtown Chicago. The focus of the group's
march was a commemoration of the 25th Anniversary
of the Hunger Strikes at Long Kesh prison in Ireland,
where ten men died in 1981.
O'Neill, 83, was born in the North of Ireland at
a time when Ireland was torn apart by bloody Civil
War. He joined the Irish Republican Army in the
1940's and was later interned in some of the worst
prisons in Ireland including the Curragh, Mountjoy,
and Portlaoise Prison; where he went on Hunger Strike
three times for the right to be classed as a political
prisoner, and not as a criminal.
moving to Chicago in the 1950's Frank owned and
operated "O'Neill's", a popular establishment
on Chicago's Northwest side for over forty years
frequented by many well-known politicians, judges,
lawyers, and city workers. A former boxer, Frank
ran a tight ship. There were never any fights at
O'Neill's; he cut them all off before they had the
chance, gently telling them they'd had enough. It
didn't matter if they were ward bosses, captains
of industry or bus drivers, Frank treated everyone
O'Neill has dedicated his life to the cause of a
united Ireland, free of British interference. Frank
has been a member and founder of numerous Irish
humanitarian organizations in the United States
since the 1960's. In 1987 Frank testified in the
Illinois Legislature as an expert witness in the
McBride Principles, whose passage guaranteed fair
employment practices for Irish Catholics in the
North of Ireland. At the present time Frank is a
National Board Member of the Irish Freedom Committee/Cumann
na Saoirse, and is Chairman of the Chicago Chapter;
which was named in honor of his associate and good
friend Charlie Kerins, executed by a British hangman
in 1944. The Irish Freedom Committee, established
in 1961, is a Nation-wide, registered Not-for-Profit
organization dedicated to education on the root
causes of the conflict with England, and to the
charitable and humanitarian support of the children
and dependents of Irish Republican Political Prisoners.
Saturday, Mr. O'Neill led a contingent of activists
marching in respect for the memories of ten brave
young Irish men who gave their lives on Hunger Strike
twenty-five years ago at Long Kesh Prison in the
North of Ireland. These young men, Bobby Sands,
Francis Hughes, Patsy O'Hara, Ray McCreesh, Joe
McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty,
Thomas McElwee, and Michael Devine; died for the
right to be classed as political prisoners, and
as not criminals.
the words of three-time hunger striker Frank O'Neill,
"Hunger strike is a tactic used for centuries
to bring the struggle to the oppressor's door".
It is not an easy one, as the deaths of these ten
consecutive Hunger Strikers in 1981 was to show.
Twenty-five years later, not one of the demands
the 1981 Hunger Strikers died for has come to pass-Ireland
un-united is still not at peace. And today, almost
unknown to the world, nearly 100 Irish republican
political prisoners in jails in Britain and Ireland
still battle for the same right to be classed as
political prisoners - a right taken from them with
the signing of the 1998 Treaty with England.
O'Neill recently told a Derry conference on prisoners'
rights; "The British government.will always
deny Irish prisoners human dignity, but it is my
hope that no Political Prisoner will ever have to
suffer the ordeal of starving in a dark wet cell,
in a hope to be allowed basic human rights. I hope
that we will never see another Hunger Strike."
Irish Freedom Committee/Cumann na Saoirse made an
impressive showing in Saturday's parade, with over
40 participants extended over half a city block.
Frank O'Neill led the contingent in a black 1966
Cadillac Eldorado in mint condition, with presidential
type flags on either fender. The 9 year old grand-daughter
of P. Michael O'Sullivan, celebrated photo/journalist
who authored the 1971 book "Patriot Graves",
followed him; beating the Bodhron slowly as ten
marchers walked silently behind in formation carrying
large black and white photos of the ten 1981 Hunger
Strikers. A marcher behind them carried a large
placard stating "No More Hunger Strikes - Political
more information and event updates please visit
The Irish Freedom Committee at http://www.irishfreedomcommittee.net,
or email the Charlie Kerins Chicago Cumann of the
IFC at Saoirse@irishfreedomcommittee.net.