This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike in which 10 brave men gave their lives rather than be classified as criminals. Gerry Adams today launched a year long series of events to mark the 25th Anniversary. He was joined by Oliver Hughes ( Brother of IRA Hunger Striker Francis Hughes) and former prisoners Martina Anderson and Seando Moore.
I was not alive in 1981 but I know the Hunger Strikes had a profound effect on my parent's generation. Even though I wasn't alive in 1981 the Hunger Strikes has still had a significant impact on my Republican politics. We all know the memorable quotes of the era coming from Fr McCreesh, "My Brother is not a Criminal" and of course Bobby Sands who gave so much and whose memory and words continue to give so much to the Republican cause.
When thinking about a United Ireland I honestly always hark back to the quote of Bobby Sands, "Our revenge shall be the laughter of our children"
These men gave their lives for their belief in the Republican cause. They refused to let that bitch Thatcher criminalise the struggle, they stopped her with their sacrifice!
Gerry Adams said today
"The prison protests of the late 1970s and early 1980s and in particular the Hunger Strike of 1981 were watershed moments in Irish history. It does not seem like 25 years ago when 10 republican prisoners lost their lives when faced with an intransigent British government in London and an Irish government in Dublin more interested in self interest than seeking a resolution to the situation in the H-Blocks and Armagh prison"
My Uncle was on the prison protests of the late 70's and my mother can remember it as if it was yesterday. Her mother died the day after he was arrested and the Brits refused to allow him to go to the funeral but allowed a Loyalist to attend his grandmothers. Therefore, in my own family's history it was a turbulent time.
"The forthcoming year will provide an opportunity to reflect upon the ten men who died, the contribution they made and the sacrifices made by their families during the summer of 1981. These events must also be about more than looking back. They must also be about looking to the future, exploring how best we move our struggle forward in the coming years and how best we complete the job of delivering Irish unity and independence.
"The commemorative calendar will also allow a new generation of Irish people who weren't even born in 1981 to learn about the time and participate in mapping out the future. My generation of Irish republicans will never forget those terrible months from March to October when ten men died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and over 50 others died on our streets, but in marking the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike we have an opportunity to celebrate their lives, remember their sacrifice and rededicate ourselves to advancing the struggle in the time."
As I said these men died rather than be classified as criminals, their bravery and determination has become a source of inspiration for a new generation of Irish Republicans.
Bobby Sands, IRA. Francis Hughes, IRA.
Began Strike on March 1st. Began Strike on March 15th.
Died May 5th, 1981. Died May 12th, 1981.
Patsy O'Hara, INLA. Raymond McCreesh, IRA.
Began Strike on March 22nd. Began Strike on March 22nd.
Died May 21st, 1981. Died May 21st, 1981.
Joe McDonnell, IRA. Kieran Doherty, IRA.
Began Strike on May 9th. Began Strike on May 22nd.
Died July 8th, 1981. Died August 2nd, 1981
Kevin Lynch, INLA. Martin Hurson, IRA.
Began Strike on May 23rd. Began Strike on May 29th.
Died August 1st, 1981. Died July 13th, 1981.
Tom McElwee, IRA. Mickey Devine, INLA.
Began Strike on June 8th. Began Strike on June 22nd.
Died August 8th, 1981. Died August 20th, 1981.
We remember them with pride!