Sadly today isn’t a day of celebration due to the sudden death yesterday of Kevin’s sister in law Rita Hannaway.
On behalf of all of us we wish to express our condolences to Diarmuid Hannaway and the entire family circle.
Rest in Peace.
To mark Kevin’s birthday this is an account of the man I know.
There can be no doubt that Kevin Hannaway bleeds green – The history and traditions of Ireland are a part of his DNA, and his family history bears this out.
On his mother’s side, he traces his ancestry to Michael Dwyer, the famous United Irishman who served as a captain in the 1798 rebellion, and Anne Devlin, who was imprisoned and tortured in Kilmainham jail for her support of Robert Emmet’s 1803 uprising.
His Hannaway ancestors fought alongside James Connolly when they weren’t defending the rights of the underprivileged and downtrodden.
His great grandfather, Michael, had been a member of the Fenian Brotherhood during the London dynamite campaigns of the 1860s.
It was Kevin who accompanied the remains of Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell from Gibraltar in May 1988 back to Belfast.
Kevin was 22 when he was arrested at the Belfast home he shared with his wife and two children on 9 August 1971.
When his wife protested that morning, a soldier discharged a shot over her head in their living room, she was holding their three-week old child in her arms at the time.
He was taken first to Mulhouse Street Barracks, then to Girdwood, where his personal possessions were taken from him, he was photographed and questioned by members of the Special Branch.
During his ordeal, he was kicked, beaten, and thrown out of a helicopter which was hovering just a few feet from the ground, though he did not know that at the time.
He was hit with batons, his nose was broken twice and a guard dog was thrown into the room he was being held in and it mauled him.
He was interrogated over a period of 48 hours at Girdwood.
He was given no food or water during this time. All of this, though, was nothing compared to what was to come.
Like the others, Kevin was chosen for the hooded treatment. He had difficulty breathing under the hood, which was made of a heavy, denim-type of material. Designed to disorient the wearer, the hoods also served to enforce a deep sense of isolation, powerlessness and anxiety.
While wearing the Hood, Kevin and the others had no idea if it was day or night, they didn’t know if they were alone or accompanied by other internees.
They were unable to see their torturers, so could not prepare themselves for the next blow.
At Ballykelly, Kevin, was brought to a room to be examined by a doctor. He explained he had a diagnosed heart condition.
The doctor ignored it and didn’t reply. Kevin was then stripped naked, weighed, and issued a boiler suit, before being taken into a room in which there was a deafening noise, similar to compressed air.
All the while, the Hood remained in place. Kevin was placed against the wall in the search position and beaten any time he tried to move. At one point, he was handcuffed to the heating pipe.
He thought of his father, Liam, and his wife and children to keep from losing his sanity. “I must not let them down,” he thought. His head was smashed against the wall, he was kicked in the genitals.
He was told martial law had been declared and his family were all dead, and he felt he was going to be killed. He asked for a priest to hear his last confession.
Kevin, like the others, was given virtually nothing to eat during this time, and lost 28 pounds over nine days. He had limited circulation in his hands and feet, his nose was swollen.
During one particular beating, Kevin’s teeth had gone through his lower lip, after nine days they began to heal, scabs forming around the teeth protruding through his lip.
After the torture was over, other prisoners had to hold him while another ripped up his lip to release his teeth. He was so badly beaten that when he walked past his brothers (who had also been interned but were not subjected to the Hooded Treatment), he failed to recognize Kevin.
Despite this, he was euphoric. The torture was over, he was with men he knew. His family, which had been given no news of his whereabouts during this time, had located him.
In October 1971, Kevin and the others were transferred to Long Kesh, where he remained until December 1975.
In 1978, a local newspaper printed the address of his home in Belfast, within two hours his front door was kicked in and he was confronted by a masked gunman.
Kevin was nursing his 18 month old baby in his arms at the time. The gunman fired three shots, two went through the child’s back and one through the child’s arm.
Against all odds, they both survived.
Two days before Christmas 1978, Kevin found a bomb planted under the car his wife drove. It was clear the bombers’ intent was not to kill Kevin, but to kill his family.
Kevin has also been shot a number of times.
He is blessed, he says, to have been the friend, comrade, prison mate, cellmate of men who have died on hunger strike, men who were killed during the long war.
And he says that his suffering is nothing compared to the families who lost loved ones. It is that suffering he carries with him, each and every day.
You are in our thoughts today Kevin.
With many thanks to: Aidan Docherty – MEET THE HODDED MEN