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.
Almost four years ago I wrote one of my first articles here in this wee blog. It was about the death of John Sands, Bobby Sands’ father. Today I am sad to report that his wife and Bobby’s mother Rosaleen has also passed away.
Gerry Adams had this to say about her this morning. “The dignity and strength she displayed was a testament to her character and her belief in standing up for what was right and just, even if that meant great suffering for herself, Bobby’s father John and their family. In many ways she epitomized what all the mothers of the hunger strikers endured and her sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Bobby Sands wrote a little poem called Dear Mum. I figured today is the perfect day to highlight it.
Dear Mum by Bobby Sands
Dear Mum, I know you’re always there
To help and guide me with all your care,
You nursed and fed me and made me strong
To face the world and all its wrong.
What can I write to you this day
For a line or two would never pay
For care and time you gave to me
Through long hard years unceasingly.
How you found strength I do not know
How you managed I’ll never know,
Struggling and striving without a break
Always there and never late.
You prayed for me and loved me more
How could I ask for anymore
And reared me up to be like you
But I haven’t a heart as kind as you.
A guide to me in times of plight
A princess like a star so bright
For life would never have been the same
If I hadn’t of learned what small things came.
So forgive me Mum just a little more
For not loving you so much before,
For life and love you gave to me
I give my thanks for eternity.
For more on this breaking story, please click here.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam. I hope this beaming face greeted her along her way.
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
I arrived in Derry during a downpour, even though the sun was still peeking through the gathering storm clouds. By the end of the trip, I felt like the weather was a perfect metaphor for the city itself. Derry is rare. It is dark, but light pierces through it. It is grey but full of color. It is gathering and ready, but still and waiting. It is tragic and beautiful. Derry is a very special place.
Today Bobby Sands would have turned 62 had he lived beyond his hunger strike. Since he did not and I happen to be in Belfast, I decided to visit him (and others) in Milltown Cemetery, bringing flowers that were long overdue.
Last week I wrote a little about Brendan Hughes, and coincidentally, today is the commemoration of the start of his hunger strike. Their troscad – which is the Celtic name for a fast that was employed to draw attention to insult or to fight injustice – began 35 years ago today.
“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.
“A rebel is one who opposes lawfully constituted authority and that I have never done.” So said one of the most devoted Republican women in Irish history, Mary MacSwiney. I’m sure she believed in that statement with all of her heart—as she did a free Ireland—but it’s guaranteed the English did not feel the same way. To them, Mary MacSwiney was the one of the worst and biggest female rebels, not only in Cork but in all of Ireland.
Thomas Ashe was a teacher, a piper, an Irish language enthusiast, a soldier, a devout man of faith and one of the pioneers of the modern Republican Hunger Strike. His life began on this day in 1885.