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Hunger striker and member of party's old guard

THE 2011 General Election marked the major breakthrough Sinn Fein had long hoped for in Southern politics.

The party won 14 seats, up from the four it took in 2007, and many of those elected – Mary Lou McDonald, Peadar Toibin and Sandra McLellan – were young TDs who had no connections to a murky past.

Dessie Ellis was also elected as a first-time TD for Dublin North-West, but he definitely belonged to the Sinn Fein old guard. He sat on Dublin City Council since 1999, and unsuccessfully contested the 2002 and 2007 general elections.

In September, the Irish Independent revealed that Mr Ellis was among a new batch of TDs that received hefty "retirement gratuity" payments from their former local authorities on their election to the Dail.

He received almost €36,000 but refused to answer questions about the payment.


Born in Finglas, Dublin, in 1952, Mr Ellis said he was involved in republicanism from a "very, very early age".

The former TV repair man was initially arrested in Dublin in May 1981, for possession of electronic remote-controlled devices. But he jumped bail and fled to Canada from where he crossed the border to the United States. He was arrested in Buffalo, New York with four others in February 1982 on immigration offences.

In 1983, he was convicted by the Special Criminal Court and sentenced to ten years in Portlaoise Prison.

However, he was extradited to England in 1990 on explosives charges, the first person to be charged under the 1987 extradition act. He went on a 37 day hunger strike in protest, only stopping when his lawyers told him he would win his case, which he did.

In a recent interview he would not detail what position he held in the IRA, "Let's just say I would have been . . . at the highest levels."

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