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Youngest blanketman Peter Kavanagh dies in hospice at 55

The family of the Peter Kavanagh the youngest blanketman, pay tribute to their father who died on Saturday. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

A WEST Belfast man who was the youngest to take part in the H Block blanket protests during the Troubles has died.

Father-of-three Peter Kavanagh (55) died on Saturday at the NI Hospice in Belfast surrounded by his family following a long battle with cancer.

Known as Dee, he was aged 16 when he spent nearly three years from 1978 on the republican blanket protest while in the Maze H-blocks.

His family told on Monday how he held onto life long enough to cradle his second grandchild, Daniel Peter, who was born just hours before he passed away.

Two years ago the roofer was diagnosed with cancer of lymph nodes that later spread throughout his body.

His partner of 25 years Breda Connors described him as a "kind-hearted gentleman" who bravely fought his incurable illness.

"He fought a hard battle. He was determined to stay alive, but the disease won in the end. It's sad, but I'm so glad to see him at peace," she said.

"He lived for his kids and his family. He just always worked hard."

"The little baby was brought over from the Royal hospital before he died. I think he held on to see him," Ms Connors said.

The 45-year-old said her partner loved travelling the world, and the couple visited Paris as one of the last trips on his 'bucket list'.

"He had been to every capital city in Europe but Paris was the only one he hadn't been to," she said.

"I was glad he got to go there and I was happy to be there with him.

"The doctors couldn't even believe that he went – he was just so determined."

And earlier this year Mr Kavanagh managed to travel to Moscow with one of his daughters – just hours after leaving hospital following a turn for the worse.

Mr Kavanagh took part in the blanket protest, refusing to wear prison clothes, after being jailed for throwing a petrol bomb – a charge his family say he always denied.

His older brother John Kavanagh said: "He was 16 and he was caught up in trouble during the queen's visit. He was sentenced for throwing a petrol bomb – he was never in court in his life.

"He was my brother, he was great guy, and he had a heart of gold.

"The doctor in the hospice said he never knew anyone with a heart and mind as strong as that. He should have gone weeks ago."

Mr Kavanagh is also survived by his son Danny (30), and daughters Carly (22) and Seanna-Lee (19).

His remains are due to be cremated tomorrow at Roselawn in Belfast. The family plan to scatter his ashes along the west coast of Ireland.

"That was the part of his bucket list that he didn't get to do, so we're going to scatter his ashes there," Ms Connors said.

"I think that's the best thing we could do for him. He was a big gentleman and he did everything for everyone. He was just so kind-hearted."

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