8 May 1997 Edition
Hunger Strikers remembered in US
By Christy Mac an Bhaird
Irish American activists travelled from as far as Ohio and Pennsylvania to attend Irish Northern Aid's 16th annual Hunger Strike Commemoration protest in front of the British consulate in Manhattan on Saturday 3 May.
Despite driving rain and strong wind gusts, activists with black flags marched for more than two hours along Third Avenue in front of the consulate.
On Sunday 4 May NORAID's Hartford Unit unveiled a Celtic Cross inscribed with the names of the hunger strikers. It also includes Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan who died on hunger strike in England.
Marcella Sands Kelly, Bobby Sands's sister, was in Hartford for the dedication of the new memorial, the first such monument in the US.
``When you have a monument for Bobby Sands, it doesn't just stand for Ireland,'' Mayor Michael Peters told the crowd of more than 100 gathered around the granite Celtic cross, ``it stands for all people who are oppressed throughout the world.''
``It is sad that ten young men had to die and countless others had
to suffer in the days following the deaths of the hunger strikers, all due to the intransigence of the British government,'' Kelly said. She concluded with words from the final entry in her brother's prison diary: ``If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me, because the desire for freedom and the freedom of the Irish people is in my heart.''
The Hartford chapter of the Irish Northern Aid Committee raised more than $15,000 for the memorial.
The traffic circle where the eight-foot-high cross stands was landscaped by city workers and includes a large Irish flag in green, white and gold flowers. The island was renamed the Bobby Sands Circle in 1995.
On Long Island on Saturday night, more than two hundred attended a social sponsored by the Nassau County Martin ``Doco'' Doherty Unit of INA.
The names of the 11 hunger strikers and the dates they died were read by Christy Ward as attendees stood silently at attention. Ward also delivered the latest election news to a cheering crowd. The event was attended by Joyce and Kevin Crossan, who currently face deportation back to the Six Counties by the US Government.
Noraid message to Blair
Paul Doris, Chairperson of Irish Northern Aid in the US has written to the new British Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging him to move towards a ``peaceful and just settlement'' of the conflict in Ireland.
The full text of his letter is as follows:
``We take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent election success.
``In your present position you have an historic opportunity to preside over a peaceful and just settlement to the Irish and British conflict.
``We trust you have learned from the actions of your predecessor that vetoes and preconditions are recipes for disaster and the only way forward is through all-inclusive talks as soon as possible. The people have spoken through the ballot box and now is the time for their representatives to negotiate, and speak for them.
``We believe that the present circumstances offer everyone hope for the future, and the leadership which you will provide shall go a long way in turning this hope into reality.''