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24 August 2006 Edition

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Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Hunger Strikers' memory will endure

The last of the Hunger Strikers to die in 1981, INLA Volunteer Michael Devine was remembered at a well-attended march and commemoration in his native Derry on Sunday last. As with all of the other Hunger Strike commemorations, the attendance covered all ages, including those who were not even born at the time of the Hunger Strikes. It was a fitting tribute to a proud soldier of Ireland. The attendance by representatives of the broad spectrum of the republican family also showed that despite ideological or policy differences there remains a genuine consensus on the massive contribution made by the ten IRA and INLA Volunteers to the republican struggle.

During this year of commemoration of the Hunger Strike Martyrs we had the predictable attacks from the usual unionist sources. But some of the most vitriolic attacks came from within the republican/nationalist tradition. These same politicians during the 26-County General Election next year will no doubt be at pains to invoke their republican credentials with hypocritical reference to fallen heroes from an earlier period.

While Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny have a democratic right as political leaders to eulogise Tone, Pearse, Connolly or Collins it would seem that they don't see the irony in praising the freedom fighters of their parents' and grandparents' era whilst echoing today's anti-republican rhetoric of right-wing Unionist spokespersons or the 'yellow' press.

It is 25 years since the Hunger Strikes, and tens of thousands of republicans turned out to pay homage to the ten who died. The courage of the men and woman who embarked on the first Hunger Strike in 1980 - 33 in all between the Blocks and Armagh - and of the 13 comrades of the ten who died on the 1981 strike was also remembered with pride. Sadly, two of those former Hunger Strikers have also since passed away.

I have no doubt that future generations will also organise commemorations for these brave men. But how many commemorations will be organised for the political leaders who embedded the brown envelope corruption into the 26-County political system or the supine, slavish politics of the SDLP?

What a contrast between the venal, selfish politics of the establishment elite and the generosity of vision of the Hunger Strikers as they looked towards an Ireland of Equals with the inspirational manifesto statement, "Let our revenge be the laughter of our children."

It is imperative that every single republican in the 32 Counties puts into action the words of Bobby Sands when he said, "Everyone has a part to play, however big or small." If we keep that as our watchword, and take inspiration from the crowds that attended commemorations and rallies all over Ireland this year, we will achieve a mandate from the people that will move us onto a higher plain in the struggle to attain the aims for which ten brave Hunger Strikers gave their young lives.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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