Bobby Sands, MP

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’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.

Advertisements

Mary Macswiney

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.

Continue reading

Thomas Ashe

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.

Thomas Ashe, 1917

Thomas Ashe, 1917

Continue reading

Hunger by Choice – Hunger Strike Commemoration

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.
Continue reading

Michael Gaughan

Michael Gaughan, an IRA man died 40 years ago today while on hunger strike in Parkhurst Prison. When people think of hunger strikers, the name that almost always comes to mind is Bobby Sands, but there have been countless male and female prisoners who have used that form of protest throughout the years. When Michael asked for political status and was denied, he like many others before and after him, went on a hunger strike.

The demands were political status, the chance to wear his own clothes, a guarantee of education and release from solitary confinement and a transfer to an Irish prison. He joined a strike already in effect in support of Delours and Marian Price who wanted the same. As usual, these demands were ignored by the British Government.

At that time, it was Britain’s policy to force feed inmates. This was often done by forcing a block between the teeth to hold the mouth open while a tube was passed through a hole in the block into the throat. This brutal method often resorted in broken or loose teeth and lacerations in the throat, both of which Michael’s brother John attested to. Michael was force fed 17 times during the course of his strike, but his weight still dropped and his health declined.

There is a controversy surrounding his death. The last time he was force fed was June 2nd, 1974 and he was dead at age 24 by the next day. Prison officials stated that he died of pneumonia due to his declining health, but the Gaughan family stated that he died after prison doctors injured him fatally when food lodged in a lung punctured by a force-feeding tube.

Following his death the policy of force feeding prisoners came to an end and the government said they would meet the demands that he had been fighting for, since only a week before they had met the demands of Loyalist prisoners who were on a hunger strike. In an all too familiar move, the British reneged on their promises to the Irish prisoners, though not the Loyalist ones, soon after making them.

Michael Gaughan is remembered in song and history. “Take me Home to Mayo,” is also known as “The Ballad of Michael Gaughan,” and has been recorded by many Irish musicians, including the Wolfe Tones and Christy Moore.

 

“I die proudly for my country and in the hope that my death will be sufficient to obtain the demands of my comrades. Let there be no bitterness on my behalf, but a determination to achieve the new Ireland for which I gladly die. My loyalty and confidence is to the IRA and let those of you who are left carry on the work and finish the fight.” – Michael Gaughan

Rest in Peace Sir.

B October 5th, 1949  D June 3rd, 1974