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1972: A 36-Day Hunger Strike Ends in Northern Ireland

Credit…International Herald Tribune

BELFAST, June 20 (UPI).— Irish Republican Army men in Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail today ended a 36-day hunger strike in return for Britain’s virtual concession of political-prisoner status.

In Dublin, a special criminal court freed Joe Cahill, 52, a former commander of the Belfast Provisionals, after finding him innocent of inciting persons to join the I.R.A., an illegal organization.

Bombing and shooting raged on across Northern Ireland. In Armagh, 35 miles south of Belfast, police overpowered four I.R.A. suspects trying to escape, wounding one of them.

In Belfast, the 31 hunger strikers ended their fast as one of them, the former I.R.A. provisional commander in Belfast, Billy McKee, 48, was moved from the jail to a hospital because of his weakened condition.

Rioting erupted in Belfast’s Catholic neighborhoods last week when rumors spread that Mr. McKee had died. He is halfway through a three-year sentence for illegal possession of arms.

Martin McGuinness, Provisional I.R.A. commander in Londonderry, hailed the outcome of the hunger strike as a victory, especially for Mr. McKee.

A fusillade of gunfire struck the Armagh police headquarters today, and bombs ripped the Town Council building in Strabane, on the Irish Republic border, and a tire firm in Dungannon, 40 miles southwest of Belfast.

The Dungannon bomb, planted by two gunmen, caused no injuries, but two persons were hospitalized after the Strabane explosion, police said.

At least 13 persons suffered injuries in a bombing attack during the night in the predominantly Protestant town of Ballymena, 40 miles north of Belfast, police said.

In Belfast, gunmen ambushed an army patrol in the Catholics’ Ardoyne area, wounding six soldiers in a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire, an army spokesman said. One of the troopers died in a hospital, the spokesman said.

The soldier was the fourth British trooper killed in the province in the last 24 hours and the 381st fatality in three years of violence in Northern Ireland.

— The International Herald Tribune, June 21, 1972

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