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Funeral for Civil Rights Association founder

The funeral service for Workers Party veteran Des O'Hagan who died last Tuesday evening took place at Roselawn on Saturday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Andrea McKernon

The funeral service for Workers Party veteran Des O'Hagan took place on Saturday.

The remains of the founder member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, and Marxist author were taken from Downpatrick to Roselawn Crematory in Belfast for the service.

Originally from west Belfast he died in hospital last Tuesday aged 81.

The veteran republican was active during the IRA border campaign and was inprisoned in Crumlin Road jail in Belfast from 1956 to 1960.

On his release from imprisonment O'Hagan graduated with a degree in economics and was appointed lecturer in sociology in Stranmillis College in Belfast.

In 1967 he was one of the founding members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and played an important role in organising many of the campaign's major demonstrations.

When internment without trial was introduced in August 1971, he was among the first people rounded up. He wrote a number of articles documenting the ill-treatment of prisoners in the Long Kesh internment camp that were smuggled out of prison.

His prison letters were serialised by the Irish Times and played a significant role in drawing international attention to the plight of prisoners.

The "Letters from Long Kesh" were finally published in book form in September 2012.

He was one of the founding members of the Workers' Party and was for a time editor of The Irish People. In his later life he contested a number of local council elections on behalf of the Workers' Party in the South Down constituency.

Speaking at the funeral Gerry Grainger of the Workers Party Central Executive Committee paid tribute to the lifelong republican socialist whom he described as an intellectual, author and political activist who dedicated his life to class politics.

"His analysis of the philosophical development of republicanism, his identification of the democratic, internationalist, secular and socialist characteristics as the authentic articulation of the republican tradition, his republican ideological critique of nationalism, his uncompromising hostility to terrorism and sectarianism, and his emphasis on the critical necessity of building a Workers' Party – of and for the working class will be an ever-lasting testament to his life and political work," he said.

"His work on “The Concept of Republicanism” remains essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand this development."

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