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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 February 2008, 15:44 GMT
Funeral of former hunger striker
Funeral cortege
Gerry Adams helped carry Brendan Hughes's coffin
The funeral of former hunger striker and IRA commander Brendan Hughes has taken place.

The 59-year-old Belfast man was taken into hospital last week after becoming critically ill. He died on Saturday.

More than 2,000 people lined the streets as the funeral procession made its way from his home in west Belfast to St Peter's Cathedral.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among the mourners and helped carry Mr Hughes's coffin to the church.

He was the "officer commanding" IRA prisoners in the Maze jail and ordered a dirty protest and later led the first republican hunger strike in 1980.

His life after that time could not outrun or forget all that had happened to him and the many like him
Fr Brendan Smyth
In recent years he became critical of Sinn Fein and the route it was taking.

Speaking during Requiem Mass, Father Brendan Smyth said the hunger strike had taken a physical and mental toll.

"His life after that time could not outrun or forget all that had happened to him and the many like him," he said.

Brendan Hughes joined the IRA in 1969. He was arrested in the early 1970s along with Gerry Adams and Tom Cahill and sent to Long Kesh, which later became the Maze prison.

He escaped shortly afterwards in a rolled-up mattress but was eventually re-arrested.

In January 1978 he was transferred to the H-Blocks where he became the IRA OC and led the hunger strike.

Brendan Hughes
Brendan Hughes led a hunger strike in 1980
It lasted 53 days after republicans believed they had struck a deal with the authorities on the issue of prisoners' uniforms.

Mr Hughes called the hunger strike off as Sean McKenna was on the verge of death.

Fr Smyth told mourners it was a brave decision to call it off.

"We know that when someone has the courage to do the right thing, then nothing but good can come from it, and we know of at least one person whose life was immediately saved for him having taken that courageous decision," he said.

Bobby Sands, who had been a close aide of Mr Hughes, took over from him as "officer commanding" in the Maze Prison. He ordered the second hunger strike in 1981 in which he and nine other inmates died.

Brendan Hughes never fully recovered from his hunger strike ordeal and two years ago underwent an operation to save his sight.



SEE ALSO
Former hunger striker Hughes dies
17 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Republicans recall hunger strike
05 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
What happened in the hunger strike?
05 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
Hunger strikes: 25 years on
05 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
Dark legacy of the Maze
27 Jul 00 |  Northern Ireland

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