2 March 2006 Edition
Letters to An Phoblacht
Remembering Bobby Sands - 25 Years On
March 1 1981 was a day when the hunger strike to the death of an Irish republican prisoner in Long Kesh, in the north of Ireland grabbed the headlines. Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner from Belfast, announced the commencement on hunger strike for political status.
Fourty one days into his hunger strike Bobby Sands was elected as MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, a seat which had been left vacant by the death of independent MP Frank Maguire. In the by-election Bobby Sands secured over 31,400 votes - 52 per cent of the vote. This exopsed as false the claim by the Thatcher Government that Irish Republicans represented only a small minority of people in Ireland.
On May 5, 66 days after his commencement of his hunger strike Bobby Sands MP died in the hospital wing of Long Kesh. He was aged 27.
Nine more republican prisoners were to follow the Bobby's path and die on hunger strike in their attempt to gain political status.
Within a year of the ending of the strike all the prisoners' demands were met.
They had broken the British label of 'criminalisation', proving the legitimacy of the Irish republican struggle in Ireland.
Twenty-five years on from the H-Block Hunger Strike of 1981, Irish Republicans remember with pride the sacrifice and selfless courage shown by the ten brave men who died and the countless other men and women who took part. We also rededicate ourselves to the struggle for freedom in Ireland for which they gave their lives.
Ógra Shinn Féin
Where is the Love?
The counter demonstration to the so-called Love Ulster protest, was wrong and played right into the hands of loyalists.
As a republican I don't believe in a hierarchy of victims. I believe that all victims of the conflict have a right to truth and justice, but this was the motivation for the 'Love Ulster' march. If it was they wouldn't need union jacks and Orange sashes.
The loyalists set out to make republicans look bad and cause confrontations on the streets and they succeeded.
I welcome the fact that loyalists realise that if they want things done in the Six Counties they must make their voice heard in the capital of this nation. As a republican I love all of Ulster. I also love Connaught, Leinster and Munster.
The Dublin Government took it upon themselves to allow a deeply sectarian movement from the North to parade in our capital, even though the decision flew in the face of popular opinion. I am from the North myself and suffered for years at the hands of the Orange Order. However, I have been living in the South for the past six years and I know how deeply hurt people down here felt when it first emerged that 'Love Ulster' was going to flaunt their sectarianism on our nation's capital.
While I am not condoning Saturday's trouble I do feel that the blame lies firmly with Michael McDowell, Bertie Ahern and the Garda Commissioner. They knew that this parade was not welcome, and never will be for as long as its members continue to attack nationalists in the North and flaunt their sectarianism in Portadown and North Belfast.
'Love Ulster' told us through the Southern media, that there would be no flags or orange regalia on display. I, and thousands of others, saw bands dressed in their Orange uniforms carrying the butcher's apron. Now when they give up their displays in nationalist areas and apologise for all the hurt and distress they have caused in the north then maybe, just maybe, they will be welcome in Dublin.
Ard Fheis motion
A welcome outcome, I believe, of Sinn Féin's 2006 Ard Fheis was the passing of Motion 44 as party policy. The acceptance of Motion 44 means that Sinn Féin is to convene a special conference to debate the merits and viability of the GFA as a vehicle to advance the struggle for a 32 county democratic, socialist Republic. Debate is healthy and the party has nothing to fear from an internal debate on the GFA. But that debate must start now. The conference adopted at the Ard Fheis will be the culmination of a grassroots review of the Agreement, not the beginning.
While the Ard Chomhairle is drafting plans for a special conference, activists should be using that time to engage with each other personally and through the party structures to discuss our future relationship with the Agreement. I look forward to the special conference and do not fear its result because it is Irish republicans who will be formulating the outcome.
Cllr. Noel Campbell,
Castlebar, Co. Mayo.