Issue 1 - 2023 front

2 November 2000 Edition

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Theatre: An Dialann Ocrais

Surprising as it may seem, it was the sheer brutality of the ``mirror search'' carried out on Pat O'Connor that shocked me most about Peter Sheridan's play, An Dialann Ocrais.

Written in the aftermath of the 1981 Hunger Strike, Sheridan's script begins as the first Hunger Strike of 1980 comes to its inconclusive end.

The enthusiastic viciousness of the screws, as they searched the anuses of their captives, summed up the cruelty that the British government was prepared to tolerate as it strove to break the Blanket Protest.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became so single-minded in her attempt to destroy republicanism that she allowed the deaths of ten Hunger Strikers, yet the scene where the screws force O'Connor down over the mirror best captures the image of an entire political system pitting itself against the individual.

In this latest production of Sheridan's play, staged by An Aisling Ghearr in An Cultúrlann MacAdaim Ó Fiaich on Belfast's Falls Road, former republican POWs Davy Adams and Gerry Magee play the lead roles.

Neither of these are professional actors yet in this, their first public performance, they performed admirably and gave the script a certain authenticity.

This play is a powerful piece of theatre and Gearóid Ó Cairealláin and Aisling Ghearr are to be commended on the timing of their production, as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 1980 hunger strike.

I saw the play last Thursday, 26 October. Earlier in the day the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams spoke at a press conference where the party announced a year of commemorations to mark the hunger strikes.

Adams spoke of the duplicity of the then British government and the bad faith it showed at the end of the first hunger strike, when instead of seeking an honourable solution it sought a victory over the protesting prisoners.

Adams, who was accompanied by former H Block Hunger Striker Raymond McCartney, Armagh Hunger Striker Mary Doyle and Bik McFarlane, who was OC of the protesting prisoners during 1981, wondered how far further down the road to peace we would have been and how many lives might have been saved had the British not chosen the path they did.

In the aftermath of David Trimble's antics at the Ulster Unionist Council meeting last Saturday, one would be forgiven for despairing of the unionists' inability to learn from history as they follow the Donaldson line to... where?


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