13 July 2006 Edition

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Border counties remember Hunger Strike

Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane, who was O/C of the republicans prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh during the 1981 Hunger Strike is to address a major anniversary event in County Cavan next Sunday.

The event at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell will bring together H-Block people from counties Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo, Fermanagh and Leitrim and will feature talks on the period by prominent activists during that time.

The border counties were an important battleground for the five demands of republican prisoners in the H-Blocks.

Bobby Sands was elected MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone before he died on hunger strike. Kieran Doherty was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan, while Joe McDonnell just missed out on being elected as TD for Sligo/Leitrim by a handful of votes before he died after 61 days of protest.

Thousands of election workers and families suffered harassment and intimidation by police on both sides of the border during the period.

This weekend's event is expected to attract large numbers of participants from across the region, including family members of the Hunger Strikers.

Fermanagh republican Seán Lynch said the event would "remember the efforts made by those who campaigned, as much as it is a commemoration of the ten Hunger Strikers who died during the protest for political status.

"The battle for political status for the prisoners outside the prisons was an emotionally intense affair along the border. People fought a life and death battle for the soul of their areas to put pressure on Thatcher to accede to the prisoners' demands.

"Electoral volunteers from all over Ireland came to the area to attempt to save the prisoners' lives. The commemoration this weekend will relive those moments of struggle in a proud, reflective manner," he said.

The event will include national and local hunger strike visual exhibitions. It will be attended by academic Denis O' Hearn who wrote the recently launched biography of Bobby Sands Nothing But an unfinished Song.

Leading figures from the Hunger Strike period such as Bik McFarlane will be joined by former Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP and Bobby Sands' election agent Owen Carron, former Cavan/Monaghan election agent Charlie Boylan and Sligo councillor, Sean MacManus.

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