22 February 2001 Edition
Twinbrook remembers 1981
Jim Armstrong, one of the organisers of the local 1981 Committee in Twinbrook, has spoken to An Phoblacht about the events the area has organised to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike.
Armstrong, who represented Twinbrook (the area Bobby Sands was from) on the Belfast H Block Committee, says that this year's anniversary has stirred many emotions and memories.
``Time passes so quickly. I can still vividly recall many of the memories, which still cause me pain and sadness,'' he told An Phoblacht. ``Ten unarmed men changed the direction of the struggle and wrote a new chapter in the conflict between Ireland and Britain.
``Today, most people under the age of 30 probably know little of what happened in 1981. For me, 1981 was a time of momentous change. Ten ordinary men found themselves in an extraordinary situation when they embarked on hunger strike. As a result of their actions I feel we now stand on the brink of an opportunity to reunify our country.
``In 1981, I was a representative for Twinbrook at the Belfast H Block Committee meetings where the street protests were planned and where we received an update on the latest situation in the H Blocks and the medical conditions of the prisoners on hunger strike. Even now I can remember the great sense of helplessness and sadness felt by everyone in the community.
The Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore areas have formed their own `81 Committee and they will be holding a function in the Andersonstown Social Club on Saturday 24 February to raise funds for a series of events throughout the year.
There will be a candlelit vigil along the Stewartstown Road at 7pm on Thursday, 1 March to mark the actual day 20 years ago that Bobby Sands started the 1981 Hunger-Strike. The vigil will stretch from the roundabout right up to the Bobby Sands monument. Afterwards, ten people will embark on a 48-hour token fast in a mock H Block cell.
There will be further events and exhibitions in May and right through to October. Further information can be obtained from the local `81 Committee at 90 604004 or the National `81 Committee at 90 615900.
* The Greater St James's 1980/81 Committee will hold a candlelit white line picket on Thursday 1 March between 7pm and 8pm at the St James's Road/Falls Road junction.
Hunger strike exhibition
As part of our contribution to the 20th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike, An Phoblacht has mounted an exhibition of photographs and reports taken from the paper during the hunger strike period. The exhibition, compiled by An Phoblacht's Belfast office manager Gonne Carmichael, also includes some rare NorAid posters highlighting the plight of each hunger striker.
In a period of censorship and repression, An Phoblacht provided a vital service in keeping our readership at home and abroad well informed during the unfolding tragedy.
The pivotal role of An Phoblacht in getting the story out is well reflected in the exhibition, with many of the reports and contributions from the hunger strikers themselves. Well done Gonne!
Hunger Strike memorabilia to be launched
Many new items of memorabilia especially designed for the 20th anniversary of the H Block hunger strike are to be launched at a commemoration day in West Belfast's Andersonstown Social Club on Saturday 3 March.
The day will highlight the sacrifice of hunger striker Kieran Doherty, who is from the immediate area.
Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín O'Caoláin, who played a key part in getting Kieran elected as TD for the same constituency during 1981, will be the guest speaker.
Among the events scheduled is the showing of a documentary on the Hunger Strike and a panel discussion with ex-POWs Seanna Walsh and Michael Culbert, to be screened at 7.30pm.
Also scheduled for that afternoon is the launch of many new items of memorabilia to commemorate the hunger strikes.
Among the items to be launched will be badges, posters and flags.
The new set of badges with the faces of all ten hunger strikers and a special 20th anniversary Spirit of Freedom badge are at present available at both the Art Shop on the Falls Road, Conway Print and Design on Conway Street, Belfast and through An Phoblacht, 535e Falls Road Belfast. All are priced £3, although a full set of the hunger strikers' badges can be bought for £20.