The details of a vigil to mark the 30th anniversary of the commencement of the 1981 Hunger Strike have been announced.
On Tuesday, March 1, republicans will gather at the Andersonstown Barracks site in west Belfast, exactly 30 years to the day from republican Prisoner of War Bobby Sands beginning the second hunger strike for political status in the H Blocks of Long Kesh.
The candle-lit vigil to remember Sands and his comrades, Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Mickey Devine, will begin at 7pm.
The graves of three of the hunger strikers – Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty – lie only yards from the Andersonstown Barracks site in Milltown Cemetery’s republican plot.
éirígí’s Pádraic Mac Coitir, who participated in the blanket and no wash protests during the struggle for political status, appealed for as many people as possible to attend the event.
“The fight for political status, which culminated in the 1981 Hunger Strike, was a defining moment in Irish history,” he said.
“It marked a serious setback for British strategy in Ireland, unfortunately at a great cost to the republican prisoners and the nationalist community outside the prisons.
“What 1981 taught republican Ireland and, indeed, the British establishment was that a united, determined people cannot be criminalised, ignored, repressed out of sight or shot off the streets.
“The sacrifice the hunger strikers made in defence of their fellow prisoners and in defence of the republican struggle should never be forgotten. It should serve as an inspiration to all those who continue the struggle against injustice, in Ireland and beyond.”
Mac Coitir added: “It is important to remember that it wasn’t just the men in the H Blocks who fought against Britain’s criminalisation strategy. The struggle of the female prisoners in Armagh was every bit as crucial and served as a siren call, if one were needed, that women were equal participants in the fight for national independence.
“Equally importantly, there are republicans in prison today who are denied the political status that was won at such a high cost three decades ago. While these prisoners are denied their human rights and, indeed, while even a single person remains imprisoned as a result of the British occupation, the goals of the hunger strikers will remain unfulfilled.
“éirígí is calling on republican ex-prisoners, those who were involved in the Relatives Action Committees and the Smash H-Block campaign, the relatives of those who played their part in the prison struggle and those who are too young too remember 1981 to gather at the Andersonstown Barracks site on March 1.
“While organised by éirígí, the vigil will not be a strictly party-political event. It will be, first and foremost, an opportunity for republicans and all those who hold the hunger strikers in high esteem to remember their sacrifice and to recommit themselves to the goals for which they died.