Moya was the younger and only sister of the late Brendan Hughes. She was devoted to him and he idolised her in the way that big brothers often do their younger sisters. He introduced me to her in the visiting room of Crumlin Road jail 50 years ago when we were both on remand. She was in to see him whereas I no longer remember who was visiting me.
During our conversations in the H Blocks Brendan would often mention his family, in particular his children, his father and Moya. As the only girl, Moya was pretty much the baby of the family and remained as such throughout Brendan's life. Although truth to be told, she acted more like his mother, fussing over him, making sure he kept his appointments, and insisting on him taking whatever medication he was prescribed. In short, she spoiled him.
A former O/C of Cage 11 where Brendan spent a number of years during his imprisonment, Jim McCann, said of Moya:
I think she was the only person the Dark was afraid of. Anybody who doesn't have a sister wouldn't understand. Sisters are different.
On the occasions when he was admitted to hospital, as grew more frequent with his vulnerability to chest infections increasing at an alarming rate, Moya would ring. I'd make my way down to the hospital, to be greeted by a tired smile from Brendan, asking if it was Moya who told me he was laid up. I would invariably reply that when he goes into hospital the whole republican world knows. But he knew how I found out. Moya didn't want me to tell him she was the bringer of bad news. But we all played along smilingly.
She worried a lot about him and when Voices From The Grave was published, in which he was the central character, she was alarmed at some of the negative comment and vitriol hurled his way. The smear campaign orchestrated by a probable British agent of influence designed to label everybody involved in the project as a Boston College tout caused her no end of grief. Her beloved brother, an icon of republican struggle, armed resistance and prison protest, was now being maligned with the most egregious term in the republican lexicon. I reassured her by explaining that to be labeled a tout by the man who set up six of the hunger strikers for certain death was just like being labelled an informer by Scap, something to be worn as a badge of honour, not shame. I told her that no one would ever say of Brendan that he knew about the British military's top agent in the IRA and covered for him.
Brendan's daughter Josephine was very close to Moya, always speaking glowingly of her. On her final birthday Josephine first greeted and then hailed her as 'the most amazing woman in my life, my aunt Moya.' Her other great friend was Oonagh. In the words of Josephine on 'all special occasions she was there for Oonagh and her kids.'
This kindness and caring for others was captured in a statement by Republican Network For Unity:
Her selflessness extended beyond her immediate family, as she dedicated herself to being a source of support for friends and community members alike. Moya’s warm smile and ability to listen deeply brought solace to those who needed it most.
Moya was buried form her home, 9 Burnaby Place. It is an address etched on my mind given the number of times I was there with Brendan, the last time to begin his final journey in February 2008. Sister and brother, both now at peace.