Frank Stagg died on hunger strike in Wakefield Prison, England. This was his fourth hunger strike and he died blind, weighing four stones, his wife and mother at his bedside. During his hunger strike, Stagg was denied religious services by order of the Catholic Bishop of Leeds. Prison warders placed a coffin in a cell opposite Stagg’s so he could clearly see it.
Who was Frank Stagg?
Born and bred in Mayo, he emigrated to England in search of work after finishing his schooling. He worked as a bus conductor in north London and later as a bus driver. In 1972, he joined Sinn Fein and soon after the Provisional IRA.In April 1973, Stagg was arrested with six others and charged with planning bombing attacks in Coventry. He was sentenced to 10 years.
Why did he go on hunger strike?
Stagg’s demands were:
- An end to solitary confinement.
- No prison work.
- Repatriation to prison in Ireland.
The British government refused to meet any of these demands
Frank Stagg had made a will requesting that he be buried in the republican plot in Leigue Cemetery, Ballina. Liam Cosgrave, then Fine Gael Taoiseach decided he would not have a Republican funeral. Frank’sbrother was a former Labour Minister
No Republican was able to get near Stagg’s coffin. Several family members refused to go to the funeral. The graveyard was “an armed camp” with over 1,000 gardai and soldiers on duty. After the funeral 18 inches of concrete were poured into the grave.
The next day, Republicans gathered in Leigue Cemetery.
made a promise to Frank Stagg.
“I pledge that we will assemble here again in the near future when we have taken your body from where it lies. Let there be no mistake about it, we will take it, Frank, and we will leave it resting side by side with your great comrade, Michael Gaughan.”
Republicans learnt that the grave next to Frank Stagg’s was for sale. They bought it and waited until the 24/7 armed guard was lifted.
November 1977: Under cover of darkness, Republicans began digging in the adjoining grave. Once below the lower level of the concrete, they were able to locate Stagg’s coffin and ease it from the grave . Volunteers carried it 250 yards to the republican plot, and fired a single shot as he was re-interred.
”we regret we were unable to contact you before we lifted Frank’s remains but we know you were there in spirit” – The Grave-diggers
Frank Stagg’s last message to the leadership of the Republican Movement:
“We are a risen people. This time we will not be driven into the gutter, even if this should mean dying for justice. The fight must go on. I want my memorial to be Peace with Justice.”
Brendan Anderson “Joe cahill A life in the IRA”the O’brien Press, Dublin 2002 Pg 313-315,