8 May 1997 Edition

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Bobby Sands Memorial Lecture

JIM GIBNEY, A MEMBER OF Sinn Fein's Ard Comhairle and one of the main movers behind the H Block/Armagh committee set up in support of the Five H Block Demands, delivered the annual Bobby Sands memorial lecture in the Felons Club on Saturday night 3 May.

Gibney chose as his theme: Freedom, the Idea and spoke eloquently of the time between October 1980 when the first hunger strike began in the H Blocks to the end of the second hunger strike in 1981 that saw ten men die.

He spoke of the courage of the hunger strikers and their families and also of the bravery of the nationalist people of Ireland who came onto the streets in solidarity with the hunger strikers, many with children, and faced many thousands of plastic bullets: fired by the British crown forces as they attempted to drive them off the streets.

``The bullets were meant to kill the children and some of them did,'' Gibney said.

``What was it? What was it in the prisons that led to such nobility? What was it on the streets that led to such bravery. In my view it is the idea of freedom. The idea of freedom once it has taken root can drive people to do extraordinary things in its pursuit.

``The hunger strike of 1981 is a classic testament to this fact. The idea and pursuit of freedom motivated the hunger strikers. It was that idea that sustained them through the horrors of the blanket protest, it was that idea that kept them going during the hunger strike, it was the same idea that allowed them to cross over the line separating life from death. It is the same idea that motivates us, the same idea that brought people in their thousands into polling stations across the state to vote for Sinn Féin a few days ago''.

Gibney went on to remind us that in two weeks time we go to the polls again saying that we can improve on the general election result and insisting that, ``every vote that is cast for Sin Fein carries with it the idea of freedom and no matter how long it takes us to achieve that freedom we will struggle for it and when we achieve it our society will reflect our commitment to the idea for which the hunger strikers died, the idea of freedom''.

An Phoblacht
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