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.
At that stage I was measuring my deterioration against that of Sean McKenna and I was under the impression, as distinct from what I know now, that my decline would be along a similar graph as other people. In fact this wasn't the case because my rate of decline was accelerating quite rapidly; it was telescoping. I deteriorated in two or three days and fell to the level of Sean's illness after forty days. I was unaware of my rate of deterioration and just how critically ill I was, to the extent that my parents were awarded a visit per day (before they were allowed a visit per week). I believe that the prison authorities had turned liberal and awarded us all a visit when in fact it was only Sean McKenna and myself who had this. But in deference to the sensitivity of my position the other five didn't tell me this of how dangerously ill I was.
The last few days of the Hunger Strike were tortuous, as far as I remember them. What eventually happened was that lack of food affected my kidney and they went into failure and I was no longer able to drink water, which had the effect of flushing my system. Poisons built up and damaged my internal organs. My circulations began to be disabled and I felt the sensation of pins and needles in my toes and finger tips. I also noticed blotches creeping from my toes to my knees and from my fingers to my elbows. I was also suffering from acute heartburn and burning sensations because I was unable to flush the poisons from my body. I began to vomit a bottle of green fluid every couple of minutes. It would give me a few minutes relief and then it would build up again and I would begin to vomit again. I began periods of intermittent consciousness and rationality, drifting in and out of consciousness.
On occasions I was lucid and quite conscious, and aware of what was happening; on other occasions I would have hallucinations, become unconscious or drift off to sleep, but at this stage I didn't know when I was unconscious or when I was just sleeping. The hallucinations were not like those on TV or the more garish films; they were of a strange nature. At one stage I thought someone was playing on-going ceili music in the distance and I said to myself 'the screws are doing this to torment me', but it wasn't so, there was no music and it was something in my mind.
Yet on other occasion I was surprisingly conscious, for example,. I was talking to my mother about a business premises in the village and wondering if my father could get enough money to buy it, which was a strange concern two days before the end of a Hunger Strike! At this time the prison doctors believed I had between three and five days to live. So I could go from chilling reality to the bizarre. Looking back on it now as a whole, I simply wasn't rational.
Buy the book to read the whole text.