Bernadette Loughran, last survivor of female republican Armagh jail internees from 1940s, die

Posted By: November 03, 2018

Veteran republican Bernadette Loughran has died at the age of 95


Seanín Graham. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, November 3, 2018.

                                                                                                                                          Bernadette Loughran with her son Seamus

The last surviving IRA woman from a group of 14 republican internees imprisoned in Armagh jail in the 1940s has died.

Bernadette Loughran (95) from west Belfast was one of 14 Cumann na mBan prisoners who went on hunger strike for almost three weeks in protest at the governor’s failure to segregate republicans from criminal inmates.

She died on Halloween night.

The mother-of-seven, whom her children described as a “quiet family-centered woman,” became politically aware during the depression-hit 1930s and began campaigning against the discrimination of the poverty-hit working classes – both Catholic and Protestant – in the ‘Outdoor Relief Riots.’

Born in Co Fermanagh on June 9, 1923, ‘Bernie’ grew up in Vulcan Street in the impoverished Short Strand area of east Belfast where she said there was a “grim struggle” for survival during the “hungry thirties.”

Influenced by republican socialist ‘Red Jack Brady,’ she became involved in the female wing of the IRA as a teenager.

The Republican campaign of the 1940s preceded the border campaign of the following decade and was a turbulent period which saw The North’s only execution of an IRA member when 19-year-old Tom Williams was hanged for the murder of an RUC officer in 1942.

In the same year 19-year-old Bernie became caught up in a republican riot in Peel Street that ended in her arrest for throwing a ‘kidney paver’ – a large cobblestone– at police.

She refused to recognize the court and was sentenced to three months in jail. Shortly after her release, she was interned for three years.

She forged close relationships with her ‘OC’ (officer commanding), well-known republican Cassie O’Hara, as well as fellow prisoners Sheila Moore and Bridie O’Hare.

Her family says her recollection of the period was ‘remarkable.’

“She said that internment was worse than being sentenced because she never knew when it would end,” her son Seamus said.

“Imagine going on hunger strike in the 1940s in Armagh jail – there wouldn’t have been many food parcels. She was our inspiration and source identity.

“She was an incredibly brave woman, but she was so quiet and dedicated to her family.”

Following her release, she worked in Greaves’ Mill and married Seamus Loughran. The couple moved to a house in Theodore Street in the city where she raised her family and retreated from political activism.

She died at Kilwee Nursing Home. Her funeral will take place today, with Requiem Mass at St Agnes’ Church at 9.30am.

The National Graves Association, the organization that looks after republican graves, will be involved in today’s burial at the City Cemetery on the Falls Road.