Kieran Doherty (Ciarán Ó Dochartaigh)
October 16 1955 – August 2 1981
Kieran Doherty was born in Andersonstown, West Belfast in October 1955. He came from a family of six, four boys (Michael, Terence, Kieran and Brendan) and two girls (Róisin and Mairéad). His mother Margaret and father Alfie were very well known and respected in the Andersonstown area. Kieran was educated in St Theresa’s primary school and then moved onto the Christian Brothers’ secondary school, both situated on the Glen Road not far from his home.
He left school at the age of 16, gaining employment as an apprentice heating engineer, and later working as a floor-tiler with his father. Kieran was a keen Gaelic football player and won an Antrim Minor medal in 1971 with St Theresa’s GAC. Kieran and his girlfriend Geraldine didn’t get much time to spend together because of his heavy involvement in the Republican Movement.
He joined Na Fianna Éireann in 1971 and, later, the Irish Republican Army. The British army soon became aware of Kieran and his family home was constantly raided. After one such raid, they attempted to intern him only to discover he was under the age of 17 by 10 days. The Brits returned to the area 10 days later but relatives managed to warn Kieran and he was driven to a safe house in Limerick.
Kieran returned to Belfast at the beginning of 1973 but after a week or so he was arrested and taken to Castlereagh interrogation centre and then imprisoned without trial in Long Kesh, where he spent over two years. On his release from Long Kesh, Kieran became a highly active IRA volunteer and was captured in August 1976. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for possession of firearms and explosives.
Kieran Doherty immediately joined the blanket protest in the H-Blocks after his sentencing by a non-jury Diplock court. Big Doc as he was known because of his size and defiance of the prison regime, was in constant conflict with the screws. He refused to submit to the intrusive anal searching over a mirror, which constantly saw him beaten. One such brutal beating ended with him being taken to hospital.
On June 11 1981 Kieran was elected as an Anti-H-Block/Armagh TD for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency in the 26-County general election, receiving over 9,000 first-preference votes, only 303 votes behind the then sitting Free State Minister of Education.
Kieran embarked on his hunger strike on May 22 1981 upon the death of Raymond McCreesh. He had a great spirit for survival which helped him stay conscious until near the end of his hunger strike and, although his eyesight was badly damaged, he managed to speak to his family right up until the end of his 73-day fast on August 2nd.
Kieran’s body was brought through Andersonstown to his parents’ home in Commedagh Drive at two o’clock in the morning. Over one thousand mourners accompanied the coffin and even larger crowds came out on Monday morning to pay their respects.
Hundreds of stewards took position on the funeral route as Kieran’s coffin was carried out of his parents’ house for his burial in the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery, escorted by an IRA guard of honour. An IRA firing party came out of the crowd and, lining the side of the coffin, fired a volley of shots. While presiding at the funeral, Fr Hansen refused to wear his vestments at the graveside because of the earlier presence of a firing party and uniformed IRA volunteers at the burial.
The priest later recalled having visited Kieran on the 13th day of his fast and remembered it to be a cheerful event. He recounted Kieran’s words when he asked him if he would consider coming off the hunger strike. Kieran replied: “Look, Father, I could not give up. If I did I would go back to criminal status. I am not a criminal. I never was, and never will be one.”