Patsy O’Hara was a survivor. He grew up in Derry during some of the city’s most violent years and he was hit by a soldier’s bullet at the tender age of fourteen. He lived through that ordeal and became a fighter devoted to freeing Ireland from English rule. Patsy had a keen sense of what he thought was right and a huge streak of Irish Republicanism. This combination led him straight into the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a militant Irish Republican group that was dedicated to forcing the English out of Ireland by any means necessary. It also eventually led him into the H-Blocks of Long Kesh Prison where he died on this day in 1981 while on hunger strike.
On this day in 1981, Bobby Sands was elected to Parliament. His candidacy was a risky maneuver, given that he was in prison and on hunger strike at the time and while his win ended up being a masterful propaganda tool, it did not save his life.
On this day in 2013 Margaret Thatcher died. I can’t very well write about Irish history without acknowledging her passage, so there it is. I always try to write passionate and fair pieces and I choose my subjects with that in mind which is why I will skip anything more about her at this time. Perhaps there will come a day when I can actually write about her without getting angry, biased, and opinionated, but today is not that day so I’ll let these photos I’ve snapped throughout the North of Ireland speak for me. They’re worth at least a thousand words anyway.
“Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – Bobby Sands
On the night of January 4th (or the wee hours of the 5th) in 1969 a potent Irish landmark was born in The Town I Love So Well. The place that has since been known as Free Derry Corner stands uniquely in between three different busy roadways in the Bogside area of Derry city. At the time of its christening Free Derry Corner was a row of occupied houses but they are long gone these days. All that remains now is the gable wall with its stark black and white message that is still as true as ever. It is a monument to the neighborhood, the residents who have lived and died there, and the struggles and complicated past of Derry.
“They have nothing in the whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken”
– Bobby Sands.
Bobby Sands was elected MP while languishing in prison on hunger strike. His newly elected position did not save him from death. He died 34 years ago today on the H blocks in the Maze. His funeral was attended by over 100,000 people and was seen worldwide, sparking international protests against the British government in other countries as well as Ireland. Countless stories, movies, and songs have been inspired by his life, and he remains an icon of Ireland to this day. Here’s a wonderful example of the music inspired by him from the great Black 47. Rest in peace, Bobby.
The Hunger Strike is an ancient custom that has been used for solving serious personal and social conflicts for centuries. The concept was originally an option for fighting injustice and it remains so to this day. August 3rd, 2014, is the day Hunger Strike Commemorations in Ireland wind up for the year, which is a perfect time to learn about the tradition and some of the people who have carried it on.
The Hunger Strike was codified in the early Brehon Laws of Ireland and known as a Troscad. It was often employed against a chieftain or tribal leader by someone of lower standing and was carried out publicly on the abuser’s doorstep. Advance notice was given before commencing this type of strike and the defendant was supposed to fast along with the person who had the complaint. If the originator of the strike died of starvation their opponent had to pay relatives a fee and would be subjected to societal penalties and supernatural consequences. Few people allowed themselves to be shamed in such a situation for long and most conflicts were resolved quickly and without death. It turns out that forcing the other party to go hungry right along with you made a difference, as did the peering eyes of the public.