#OTD in 1981 – Matt Devlin joined the hunger strike to replace Martin Hurson.

Matt Devlin was born in Ardboe, Co Tyrone, on 30 April 1950. He was arrested in 1977, and was taken to Cookstown and Omagh Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) barracks and interrogated for four days. He was charged with the attempted murder of members of the security forces.

Devlin became the 15th republican prisoner to join the Hunger Strike in Long Kesh Prison when he replaced Martin Hurson who died after 46 days on hunger-strike on 13 July 1981. He had been involved in the prison protests right through from the blanket protest right through until the hunger strikes ended when families began to take their sons off the protest.

In 2004, despite serious illness he stood in local elections in the Republic of Ireland and although failing to get elected is credited for building up the Sinn Féin party in Co Westmeath.

He died on 28 December 2005 at the age of 55, in Co Westmeath.

Senior Sinn Féin member, Martin McGuinness said: “It was a testament to Matt’s determination and courage that even when seriously ill he still put himself forward to stand for Sinn Féin in the last Southern elections. Matt continued to play a key role organising and building the party in Westmeath right up until his untimely death a few days ago.”

He was buried on 31 December 2005 in his hometown of Ardboe. A monument and tombstone to commemorate him were unveiled on 1 April 2007. The ceremony was attended by thousands.

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