The following is one response regarding the Hunger strike of 1980 from a man who participated: Tommy McKearney, now editor of Fourthwrite magazine. It is taken from a volume of Republican literature, Republican Voices. Information on purchasing this book can be found here. I strongly recommend buying this book, as it is a vital piece in understanding current "dissidents" who were loyal members of the Provisional Movement.
Brendan Hughes told us to co=operate with the medical authorities. They were monitoring our heart beat, urine samples, blood samples and weight on a daily basis, so they could tell if we were consuming protein. They could also determine the rate of deterioration of the body. For example, you can detect components of the body, muscle, bone, fat and parts of the internal organs in the blood stream. We all knew that it was vitally important to drink as much water as possible and for forty days I could drink several litres a day. I didn't notice any great loss of strength. Certainly I couldn't run and was tired but I was reasonably competent for the first forty odd days.
But I did find Sean McKenna's deterioration alarming because he had begun to deteriorate very early on, perhaps as early as the twelfth of thirteenth day. Sean was unable to leave the cell and if he did get up out of bed he was very week, very weak on his feet and he had difficulty walking without the assistance of medical staff. It surprised me that Sean had deteriorated so rapidly, but some of the prison medical people were telling us that no two bodies are identical and that there is no uniform reaction. Some people can live longer than others without food. Some people deteriorate more rapidly depending on one's state of health and previous medical history.
We were taken from H3 to the prison hospital and put in single cells in the prison ward. I began to notice a rapid deterioration in my health about this time. I went to give a urine sample and took a black out when I put pressure on my bladder I was held up by two prison medical officers and fell into their arms. Within minutes I came back to consciousness and by then I was in a wheelchair, being wheeled back to the cell by the Prison Medical Officers.
I have this to say about them [the PMOs], they treated me quite humanely during the Hunger Strike, politics apart. I won't tell any lies about them. The PMOs reassured me that I was safe in their hands. But I couldn't see anything- the world was black and my eyesight had failed completely. Within about an hour and a half my eyesight started to return, but not perfectly. I could see, but I had lost my 'horizontal hold' and everything was starting to go up and down. The next day I began to lose my left eye which was deteriorating at a faster rate than my right eye, and so to watch, or to see, or to look I had to close my left eye and use my right.
*Tomorrow, more of this bit of the interview. Buy the book to read the whole text.