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
“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.
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