A risen people

Today marks the 26th Anniversary of Volunteer Bobby Sands. Bobby was the first of ten Republicans who made the ultimate sacrifice against the British state policy of criminalisation.

They fought with conviction, valour and courage.

In Dublin today Gerry Adams said

"Today 26 years ago Bobby Sands died on Hunger Strike and it is clear that the hunger strikers continue to hold a special place in the hearts of many people. The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be found all around us. Like the Easter Rising 66 years earlier it marked a watershed in modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish republicanism is in no small measure a result of their courage.

But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the peace process and the positive transformation it has brought about in Irish society in recent years. That process of change continues.

Despite the brutal conditions Bobby never lost his faith in people or his determination to look to the future. Twenty-six years after his death Irish republicans face that future with confidence."

The Hunger Strikers hold a very important place in the heart of Irish Republicans, especially the young ones. Most of the young people in Sinn Féin today, myself included, were either not born at the time of the Hunger Strikes or were too young to remember them.

It has to be remembered that these were young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of our liberty.

Bobby was an exceptional writer and one of his last pieces of writing always makes me think. It was written on the 17th March 1981.

"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"

Let's hope that we can show even a quarter of the dedication of Bobby and the other lads as we advance this struggle on towards its final conclusion. Let's make sure that their sacrifice and the sacrifice of other men and women like them was not in vain.

"They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn't want to be broken." - Bobby Sands

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