I was lucky enough today to have been present when the Hunger Strike exhibition was displayed in the Canada Room of QUB. When I arrived in this morning at 10 am the picture of Elizibeth Windsor had been covered up and replaced with a picture of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Hundreds of students and staff turned up to view the exhibition, organised and facilitated by the Cumann in Queen's. The exhibition was compiled by the National 1981 Hungerstrike committee earlier this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hungerstrike which saw the death of 10 Irish Republicans in a protest initiated by Republican prisoners to secure their five demands and political status.
The exhibition has already visited many parts of the country although this is the first visit to Queen's. It details the biographies of the 10 H-Block Martyrs who died in 1981 as well as Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who died on Hunger-Strike in the 1970's and the history of the Women's struggle in Armagh jail.
Were we also inundated with questions as to why the exhibition was only there for the one day.
Cumann Chair Andrea O' Kane welcomed the display of the exhibition in the university. She said "This has been a very successful event as the exhibition was viewed by hundreds of students and staff, many of whom were not even born in 1981. It is very important that the sacrifice of these ten brave men is never forgotten so we must remind people today of their selfless desire to defeat the criminalisation attempts by the British government and their commitment to advancing the struggle for Irish freedom. The aims for which these ten brave men gave their lives are still being fought for today and young republicans are constantly inspired by the sacrifice of these ten brave men in 1981. This event is one of many constantly taking place in remembrance of our ten brave martyrs - who remain a source of inspiration to young freedom loving people the world over."
I couldn't agree more, an errie sense fell over you when you viewed this exhibition. Knowing that these men died rather than being catagorised as criminals.
I think this quote from W. B. Yeats (The King's Threshold) is very apt and it was on one of the panels today.
"He has chosen death:
Refusing to eat or drink, that he may bring
Disgrace upon me; for there is a custom,
An old and foolish custom, that if a man
Be wronged, or think that he is wronged, and starve
Upon another's threshold till he die,
The Common People, for all time to come,
Will raise a heavy cry against that threshold,
Even though it be the King's."