Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

A 32-County free Ireland is only fitting monument to hunger strikers

Speaking at Republican Sinn Féin’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes in the H Blocks of Long Kesh, which was held at the Ashe Memorial Hall in Tralee Co Kerry on Saturday June 4 the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton said:

Thirty years ago ten young Irish Republicans died for an ideal. They died as so many others before them and since – so that Irish Nation might live in freedom. As Liam Mellows wrote in the hours before his execution “The Republic lives; our deaths make it a certainty.”

The year 1981 takes its place alongside other years which have seared themselves into the hearts of the Irish people such as 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, 1916 and 1969.

The sacrifice of Bobby Sands and his comrades was a cry for nationhood that echoed around the world. Kerry produced the first hunger striker Tomás Ághas. On September 25 1917 Tómas Aghas became the first Irish Republican to die as a result of Hunger Strike whilst being forced fed in Mountjoy prison.It is a fitting place to assemble in commemoration of the ten who walked in Ashe’s footsteps 30 years ago.

In all 22 Irish Republicans have died on Hunger Strike in British and Free State prisons and internment camps in the years from 1917 to 1981. Each succeeeding generation of Republican prisoners have asserted their status as political prisoners and in doing so asserted the political nature of the struugle they are engaged in.

The background to the 1981 Hunger Strike lies in the British Government’s policy of criminalising Ireland’s historic fight for freedom and the determination of Irish Republicans to resist.

Some will attempt to attribute views and opinions to the martyrs of Irish freedom however we can only judge them by them by their own words. Words which are a testament to their motives and ideals. On the first day of his 66 day hunger for justice Bobby Sands recorded why he was prepared to make the ulimate sacrifice of his life: ‘I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the 'risen people’

In his final entry on March 17 Sands declared: ‘If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we'll see the rising of the moon.

In a letter ‘To the people of South Derry and Surrounding Areas” written before he embarked on his hunger strike, Francis Hughes wrote in very clear terms about the reason for the hunger strike: ‘You must realise the importance of what is happening here. This prolonged protest has become more than a minor prison issue for the British Government. Its very roots lie in the eleven years of struggle waged around you and its outcome will have great bearing on whether the British stay or go.’ He concluded by declaring: ‘I have no prouder boast than to say I am Irish and have been privileged to fight for the Irish people and for Ireland. If I have a duty I will perform it to the full in the unshakable belief that we are a noble race and that chains and bonds have no part in us.’ And Raymond Mac Creesh: ‘Not all the armies of all the empires on earth can crush the spirit one true man, and that man will prevail.’

Today in Maghaberry prison the Republican prisoners have similarly resisted all attempts by the British Government and their puppet regime in Stormont to criminalise either them or the cause for which they suffer the loss of their liberty – that is Ireland’s right to national independence. The Agreement, which was secured by independent mediators on August 12 last year – following a four month battle by the POWs against all attempts to criminalise them - has been reneged on by the Stormont regime and its minister David Ford.

We salute the men in Maghaberry for their struggle and call now for an end to strip searching and controlled movement of prisoners. We call for the full implementation of the agreement secured by the Republican prisoners.

We also applaud all of those throughout Ireland who came out to protest at the recent visit of the Queen of England. Again by their presence they showed that the spirit of revolutionary Irish Republicanism still lives on.

Reinforcing British rule, policing and administering British Rule in Ireland prolongs the conflict between England and Ireland. That is the flaw, which lies at the heart of every agreement since the Treaty of Surrender in 1921. The lesson of Irish history could not be clearer. While there remains in Ireland any vestige of British occupation there will always be a section of the Irish people prepared to resist it.

A bright future beckons to all of the Irish people once the British Government gives a declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland. Republican Sinn Féin’s proposals for a New Federal Ireland Éire Nua can make the All-Ireland Republic of 1916 a reality for all of the Irish people.

I finish with the words of another of the martyrs of ’81. Thomas McElwee in a letter to the people of South Derry written after five days on hunger strike: ‘The British Government will only bow to a might more powerful than that of her imperial army. That might is at present in our country today. It is of a risen and united people. With the strength of their unity we will regain the rights of our political prisoners incarcerated behind the barbwire and steel in these British camps. With it also we march forth to unity and free our long oppressed nation. Within every individual Irish person lies the key. I implore you to use the key.’

An Phoblacht Abú!

Statement in French . . .

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"We of Republican Sinn Féin are the nucleus, which represents what Emmet represented,
the soul of Ireland,the prophetic shock minority, those who are neither purchased nor intimidated."

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