Posted By: March 05, 2023

I first met Rita O’Hare in interesting circumstances. In August 1974, I was home in Ireland on holiday from America. I was asked to visit one of the political prisoners in Portlaoise Prison, County Laois, Irish Republic.

It was shortly after the famous escape of 19 political prisoners from that prison.

When I arrived at the prison, the guard at the “front desk” said, ‘Well, Father, who are you here to see?” “Kevin Mallon,” I said with a smile. (Now, Mallon, a Tyrone man, would have been one of the best-known of the 19 escapees, and a famous Irish Republican). But fair play to the guard, without missing a beat to my cheeky response, said: “Ha, ha, Father, you better search the bogs of Ireland for him.”


Anyway, when I gave the name of the person I had really come to visit, I was told I had to see the “governor” or whatever the man in charge was called. I met with him and, although he was friendly and respectful, he told me I could not see the person. So, in an equally friendly and respectful manner, I told him I would not leave the prison and would stage a “nonviolent prison protest sit-in.”

I left his office and went back to the waiting room, which conveniently had a public telephone. I called the Irish Press in Dublin and told them about my” sit-in.” (Later on, a reporter told me that phone had been removed!)

While there, a young redhead woman, with two young children, approached me to introduce herself: it was Rita O’Hare.

I told her I was doing a “ nonviolent sit-in,” and she immediately said: “Do you want me to join you?” I was impressed by her spontaneous willingness to help. But, I said, “ Ah, no, Rita, you have two little children with you. The guards will just carry me out and I will be fine.”

I never saw Rita again until years later she came to Washington as the Sinn Fein representative to the United States.

 Ballymurphy Massacre Congressional Hearing

There is one thing, in particular, I am grateful for Rita doing. In December 2010, she brought leaders of the Ballymurphy Massacre Committee to meet with me so that I could arrange a Congressional Hearing on the Massacre, which I was proud to do. On March 16, 2011, the Chairman of the Committee, John Teggart— whose father was one of the eleven innocent civilians assassinated by the British Army in the Massacre—testified before Congress. I was proud of him. He was a powerful and most impressive witness. And I know John and his Ballymurphy Massacre Committee will share my sadness at Rita’s death.

All of this has flooded back into my mind when I heard of Rita O’Hare’s death. May God rest her noble Irish soul. She was a great woman and a great Irish Patriot.

Fr. McManus with Ballymurphy Massacre Committee on Capitol Hill. Alice Harper, Fr. McManus, Briege Voyle, and John Taggart. 2010.