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.
H-Block Memorial, Free Derry Corner.
Still on the walls in 2013
“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’s smile. Belfast, 12/12/13
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 130 years ago, on this day in 1885.