Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Deaths of the Hunger Strikers shone a spotlight on Ireland’s fight

Speaking at Republican Sinn Féin’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1981 H Block Hunger Strikes held in Cork City on Saturday August 20th the President of Republican Sinn Féin said:

“This year we mark the 30th anniversary of the deaths on hunger strike of ten young Irishmen in the H Blocks of Long Kesh. The heroism and idealism shown by these otherwise ordinary young Irishmen was anything but ordinary. It was of a magnitude few can match. Their deaths made the world sit up and see that here in Western Europe was a small nation still struggling under the yoke of colonialism and imperialism.

“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.

“Fasting was used as a method of protesting injustice in pre-Christian Ireland, where it was known as Troscadh or Cealachan. It was detailed in the contemporary civic codes, and had specific rules by which it could be used. The fast was often carried out on the doorstep of the home of the offender.

“As a political weapon it first came to the fore in the early 20th Century. The Women’s Suffrage movement employed hunger strike as a means of protesting their imprisonment and this was a method of resistance soon adopted by other political activists most notably in Ireland and India.

“On September 25 1917 Tomás Aghas became the first Irish Republican to die as a result of Hunger Strike whilst being forced fed in Mountjoy prison.

“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.

“Cork City too saw its Lord Mayor place his body on the altar of freedom. Terence MacSwiney endured a hunger strike of 74 days dying in Brixton Prison in London on October 25 1920. Like that of Bobby Sands 61 years later MacSwiney’s sacrifice and death threw the spotlight of the world on Britain’s occupation of Ireland.

“In a letter to Cathal Brugha written as he began his hunger strike MacSwiney gave a glimpse of the inner peace and resolution he felt about the sacrifice he was about to make: ‘If I die I know the fruit will exceed the cost a thousand fold. The thought makes me happy. I thank God for it. Ah Cathal, the pain of Easter Week is properly dead at last.’

“Four other sons of Co Cork would like MacSwiney use their bodies as the final weapon of resistance to British Rule. Michael Fitzgerald, Joseph Murphy, Denis Barry and Andy Sullivan.

“Each of the 22 who paid that ultimate sacrifice from Tomás Aghas to Mickey Devine – the 30th anniversay of whose death we remember today – did so not only to vindicate their right to political status but also to vindicate Ireland’s right to take her place among the nations of the earth.

“In 1998 the Provisionals under the terms of the Stormont Agreement signed away the rights won on the back of the sacrifice of Bobby Sands, Mickey Devine and their comrades. As a result today young Irishmen in Maghaberry Prison are enagaged in the same struggle against the same enemy for the same principle. Locked in their cells for 24 hours a day, these young Republican POWs are engaged in a ‘Dirty Protest’. They are being denied the right to legal or family visits. Even their right to post letters has been denied them. In August of last year an Agreement – independently mediated – laid the basis for a just settlement. Despite this the Stormont Justice Minister and his regime reneged on this Agreement and have instead forced the Republican Prisoners to return to protest. We are calling on people to come out in support of their right to political status and rally behind their demand for an end to the dehumanising practice of strip-searching and controlled movement.

“Events over the past months have told us more about the reality of British Rule in Ireland than any words we could express or write. The arrest and charging of the President and Vice President of Republican Sinn Féin on July 6 in relation to a march for Republican veteran Martin Corey held in Lurgan on January 23 is part of a deliberate targetting of Republican Sinn Féin by both the British and 26-County States. Our newly appointed Publicity Officer Geraldine McNamara had her home in Tipperary raided by the 26-County Special Branch on June 30 and her mobile phone siezed. In May two members of Republican Sinn Féin were arrested and charged with an interview they gave to Channel Four News in September of last year. Other members are also being chraged with participating in the same march while the RUC/PSNI have issued warning letters regarding the Easter 1916 commemorations in Lurgan and Armagh. An attempt to silence the message by locking up the messanger.

“When Loyalists attacked nationalist homes in Belfast’s Short Strand in June the response of the RUC/PSNI was to arrest two nationalists while within days Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson was negotiating with the UVF who carried out the attacks.

“We welcome the release of veteran Republican Brendan Lillis on August 18. But we also point out that he should never have been imprisoned in the first place. He was held in appalling conditions in Maghaberry Prison for no other reason than the vindictiveness of the British Government and the Stormont Regime. His internment without trial was a gross violation of his most basic human rights.

“We repeat our demand for the immediate release of Martin Corey – another veteran Republican – who has been interned without trial since April 2010. At the end of July he was told that he must serve a further four years in prison. Martin Corey served 19 years in Long Kesh making him the longest serving prisoner there. Despite this he is in Maghaberry today simply because he refuses to compromise with the occupier of his country.

“In the last week in July five nationalists were arrested in a high profile swoop, which the British Colonial Police trumpeted as being linked to the death of RUC/PSNI man Ronan Kerr in April. All were released within two days without charge. One of the men was in the US at the time of the attack in which Ronan Kerr was killed. Yet another case of ‘round up the usual suspects’.

“The Six-County State can never be either normal or democratic. It is inherently sectarian and a stumbling block to a New Ireland.

“If we wish to truly honour Bobby Sands and his comrades we can only do so when we remove the last vestiges of British Rule from Ireland along with the new imperialism of the EU/ECB and the IMF who seek to enslave our people politically as well as economically. A New Ireland based on the federal proposals set out in Éire Nua can make the All-Ireland Republic of 1916 a reality for all of the Irish people.
Irish Republicans are the true revolutionaries capable of fanning the flame of freedom and in the words of Terence MacSwiney: ‘scorching up hypocrisy, deceit, meanness, and lighting all brave hearts to high hope and achievement’.”

An Phoblacht Abú

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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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