Twentieth anniversary of Bobby Sands' death
Originally published between May 3rd and 6th, 2001
Twenty years ago on Saturday, Irish political prisoner Bobby Sands MP died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh Prison after 66 days without food.
He was the first of ten hunger strikers to die in protest at British government's attempt to criminalise them and the struggle for Irish freedom.
Nine other prisoners died by the time the hunger strike was called off on October 3.
The hunger strike was a watershed. It changed the course of Irish history and laid the foundation for the British government being forced to the negotiating table.
The anniversary of the hunger strike has been commemorated this weekend in Ireland and throughout the world in ceremonies that honoured the courage and sacrifice of those young men.
Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Martin Hurson, Micky Devine, Raymond McCreesh, Francis Hughes, Patsy O'Hara and Thomas McElwee will always be remembered as symbols of the triumph of the human spirit over repression and injustice.
Across Ireland, countrywide black flag vigils have brought back vivid memories of the hunger strikes.
Events included a vigil on O'Connell Bridge, Dublin with a commemoration ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetary and a white line vigil on the Drumcondra Road. In Cork, a hunger strike rally took place in Daunt Square.
In New York, a mural to the hunger strikers was unveiled on 124th Street, and a vigil was held at the British Consulate.
At the beginning of his hunger strike, Sands kept a diary, which began with the following:
"I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul."
"My heart is very sore because I know that I have broken my poor mother's heart, and my home is struck with unbearable anxiety. But I have considered all the arguments and tried every means to avoid what has become the unavoidable: it has been forced upon me and my comrades by four-and-a-half years of stark inhumanity."
"I am a political prisoner. I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land."
"I believe and stand by the God-given right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence, and the right of any Irishman or woman to assert this right in armed revolution. That is why I am incarcerated, naked, and tortured.
"Foremost in my tortured mind is the thought that there can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign, oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically.
"I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the 'risen people'."
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