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23 August 2001 Edition

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Back issue: The People's Choice

THE election of Owen Carron in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election has revealed once again, both nationally and internationally, the H-Block prisoners' choice of candidate to be the nationalist people's choice of representation.

In broad terms, the endorsement of Owen Carron at the polls, not only repeats and reinforces the call for the concession of the prisoners' five demands, which will save the lives of the Hunger Strikers, but also emphasises the renewed and growing unity behind the most militant expression of the demand for a British withdrawal and an end to all suffering both inside and outside the prisons of the North.

The significance of the election result has not been lost on either the Dublin or London Governments, the former of which has, in desperate response, swung back once again to a strong position against the Hunger Strikers.

Not only has coalition leader Garret Fitzgerald refused to meet Owen Carron, slavishly providing Tory leader with ample excuse to do likewise, but hopes to ignore his presence completely by maintaining the ban which prevents the new MP from appearing on RTÉ. Wishful thinking indeed!

On the other hand, Owen Carron has immediately begun to take advantage of the majot propaganda weapon which his victory has given him in the prisoners' cause, and will not be silenced either at home or abroad.

And it is abroad where the by-election victory will undoubtedly have major impact. Last weekend saw the potential which exists in the United States, where the Attorney General of New York, the state's chief law enforcement officer, was out on the picket line at the British consolate, and 7,000 Irish -Americans demonstrated in Washington - the latest in a series of major demonstrations which were are attracting ever-growing attendances.

But even as the election victory has raised new hopes, the grim and urgent Hunger Strike continues in the H-Blocks and demands, from all, maximum effort and concentration.

This weekend the Hunger Strike reaches the grim milestone of a staggering six months duration since it began on 1 March. Another prisoner is to join the Hunger Strike on Monday, and it is to be maintained at the eight-strong level which presents the maximum pressure on the British of the prospect of one death each week in the H-Blocks.

On Thursday of this week, Laurence McKeown of Randelstown, County Antrim, reached the 60th day of his fast, and Matt Devlin of Ardboe, County Tyrone was 44 days wothout food. Both IRA Volunteers were, by then, in a critical condition.

There can be no pause in the efforts to secure the prisoners' demands. The necessary work has been clearly spelt out. If the by-election victory has strengthened hope and self-confidence then those strengths must be used to immediate effect.

An Phoblacht, 22 August 1981

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1