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4 May 2006 Edition

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Remember them with pride, work for their ideals

This Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands. For eight long months in 1981 the world witnessed extraordinary scenes as Sands and nine other incredibly courageous young Irish republicans- Francis Hughes, Patsy O'Hara, Raymond McCreesh, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee, and Michael Devine died slow, agonising deaths on Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

The conditions which led to the Hunger Strike were created when the British Government, supported by an Irish Government, tried to criminalise Irish republicans. The logic was simple- with hundreds of political prisoners how could the Irish republican struggle be depicted as the criminal conspiracy portrayed by British propagandists.

The British Government decided that the prisons were to be a 'breakers yard' for the republican struggle. The British government didn't want a settlement. It wanted victory. But the republican prisoners- young women in Armagh Jail and young men clad only in blankets in the H-Blocks, would not be criminalised. In extraordinary circumstances they took on the entire might of the British state.

Grief and anger erupted throughout Ireland on this week 25 years ago. The death of Bobby Sands reverberated around the 32 Counties and throughout the world. The brutal reality of British rule in the Six Counties was starkly exposed. Nationalists across the North reacted in sadness and in fury. While the political establishment in Dublin sat in shameful silence, thousands of ordinary people in the 26 Counties stopped work, young people walked out of schools, many businesses closed, tens of thousands took to the streets. Dublin city centre came to a standstill. The Hunger Strikers cut through the wall of political censorship which existed in those days and people were forced to take sides in what was an epic struggle for justice.

After the Hunger Strike ended and 10 men were dead the British government moved to bring about the prisoners' five demands. The prisoners won but at a terrible price. The British government's strategy in Ireland lay in tatters.

In the weeks and months ahead republicans in every corner of Ireland should organise and take part in the events to commemorate the Hunger Strikes. As we do so let us also remember the sacrifices of Michael Gaughan in 1974 and Frank Stagg in 1976.

The fight for political status in 1981 was a fight for the future of the republican struggle itself. Republicans in 2006 must strive to ensure that the 25th anniversary of the momentous sacrifice of the Hunger Strikers becomes an occasion to build further support for the cause for which they ultimately died- a united, independent Ireland with justice and equality for all our people.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtar├ín Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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