13 September 2001 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

London hunger strike march


For the first time since the protests which followed Bloody Sunday in 1972, republicans based in England are set to march to Trafalgar Square in the heart of London to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1980/81 Hunger Strike. They will also be commemorating all those who have died on hunger strike in the cause of Irish freedom, including Terence MacSwiney, Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, each of whom died in an English prison.

Because of recent political developments in the Six Counties, the date of the march will gain added significance. Sunday, 23 September, is the date the Assembly will be formally collapsed after David Trimble's refusal to accept the IRA's recent offer on weapons. Barring a miracle in the meantime, the Six Counties looks like being returned to direct rule pending new elections. Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly will be the principle speaker at the rally following the march and will be joined on the platform by Dennis Goldberg of the ANC and by representatives of those currently on hunger strike in Turkey.

Also remembered on the march will be Volunteer Diarmuid O'Neill, who was killed on the same day (23 September) in 1996 by the Metropolitan Police. His family is still demanding an independent public inquiry into his death and they have recently confirmed that they will be taking their fight for justice to the European Court. His brother Shane is due to address the rally.

Denis Grace of the Wolfe Tone Society, which is organising the march and rally with the London 1980/81 Hunger Strike Committee, stressed the importance of marking the events of 20 years ago.

``The sacrifice that Bobby Sands and his comrades made in 1981 should never be forgotten,'' he said, ``so I would urge everyone who believes in the same things as they did to join us on 23 September. The members of the British ruling classes, particularly Margaret Thatcher, who watched the hunger strikers die for their beliefs, believed that they had won a victory. But now they are discredited, political has-beens, whereas because of what those ten men suffered, Irish republicanism has gone from strength to strength. We should show them that.''

Also important for republicans, says Denis Grace, is to show solidarity with Turkish prisoners who are suffering in the same way today as the men and women of 1980 and 1981. ``Thirty-two men and women have now died on the death fast in Turkey, fighting against an oppressive regime and an inhumane prison system,'' he said. ``The hunger strikers tell us that the memory of Bobby Sands provides them with inspiration in their own struggle. We want to offer our support to them and let them know what we understand what they and their families are going through.''

Hunger Strike Commemoration March

Sunday 23 September 2001

Gather 11am at Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park

March to Trafalgar Square, followed by rally.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1