Thomas McElwee

Thomas McElwee

Infobox 1981 Hungerstriker
irish= Tomás Mac Giolla Bhuí
name= Thomas McElwee
paramilitaryorganisation= Provisional IRA
dateofbirth= 30 November, 1957
placeofbirth= Bellaghy, County Londonderry
hungerstrikestarted= 8 June, 1981
died= 8 August, 1981
daysonstrike= 62|

Thomas McElwee (Irish name: Tomás Mac Giolla Bhuí; [cite web | title = Ag bunadh Gaeltachta | url = | publisher = "An Phoblacht" | date = 3 May 2007 | accessdate = 2007-10-29] 30 November, 1957 - 8 August, 1981) was an Irish republican hunger striker and a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). [ Biography from IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981] ]

Early life

McElwee was the fifth child in a family of twelve born to James and Alice McElwee. He was educated at primary level at St. Mary's Primary School, Bellaghy and at secondary level at St. Mary's, Clady, Portglenone. McElwee then trained as a car mechanic at Magherafelt Technical College and Ballymena Training Centre.

At the age of 14 McElwee joined Fianna Eireann, he then joined the South Derry Independent Republican Unit and subsequently joined the IRA after the SDIRU was disbanded.

Paramilitary activity

In December 1976, McElwee was arrested for a firebomb attack in the town of Ballymena in which he was nearly blinded. [ [ Thomas McElwee - 'Sincere, easygoing and full of fun'] ] After his recovery he was charged with murder for the death of Yvonne Dunlop a 26 year old Protestant, who was killed when one of the bombs they had planted destroyed her shop, the Alley Katz Boutique. On conviction for her murder, McElwee was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 1977. On appeal his conviction was reduced to manslaughter and the sentence reduced to 20 years.

Hunger strike

In prison he became involved in the blanket protest. He joined the 1981 Irish hunger strike and died on 8 August 1981 at the age of 23 after 62 days of hunger-strike with no company other than prison warders, colleagues of those who, Republican sources state, had brutalised and tortured him for three-and-a-half years. His eight sisters served as his pallbearers.

Other information

He was a cousin of fellow hunger striker Francis Hughes, and also a cousin of Father Oliver Crilly, a Catholic priest who attempted to mediate during the strike.


* Thomas McElwee is the main subject of the song "Farewell to Bellaghy", which also mention his cousin Francis Hughes,other members of the South Derry Independent Republican Unit and deceased volunteers of the South Derry Brigade Óglaigh na hÉireann.
* He is also the subject of the Crucifucks' song "The Story of Thomas McElwee".


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