Francis Hughes – Irish Freedom Fighter

Francis Hughes was the second republican to die on the H-Block hunger-strike for political status. From Bellaghy in South Derry, Francis was a determined, committed and totally fearless IRA Volunteer who organised a spectacularly successful series of military operations before his capture, and was once described by the RUC as their ‘most wanted man’ in the North. Eluding for several years the relentless efforts of the British army, UDR and RUC to track him down, Francis operated boldly throughout parts of Tyrone and north and south Antrim, but particularly in his native South Derry, with a combination of brilliant organisation and extreme daring – until his capture after a shoot-out with the SAS – which earned him widespread popular renown, and won general support for the republican cause, as well as giving him an undisputed reputation as a natural-born soldier and leader. At 8.00 pm on March 16th, 1978, two SAS soldiers took up a stake-out position opposite a farm, on the south side of the Ranaghan road, about two miles west of Maghera, in the townland of Ballyknock. At 9.15 pm they saw two men in military uniform and carrying rifles, walking in single file along the hedgeline of the field towards them. Using their ‘night sights’ in the darkness, the SAS men observed the military behaviour of the two on-comers and having challenged them, heard the men mumble a few words to each other in Irish accents and assumed that the pair were UDR soldiers. One of the pair, in fact

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