By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981
Following the election victory, Sinn Fein president Ruairi O’Bradaigh pointed out that the people had spoken: “The message from Fermanagh and South Tyrone to all the world is clear: political status for the political prisoners now, before Bobby Sands
and his comrades die.” He slammed the ‘begrudgers’ of the victory, especially Gerry Fitt, who he called upon to resign his Westminster seat.
The political repercussions of the outcome of the election dominated the news media for a full week. SDLP leaders, who 48 hours earlier had warned that a vote for Sands was “a vote for violence”, soon abandoned that tune after 30,492 voters made an IRA Volunteer an MP. It was not, after all, said Austin Currie
‘a vote for violence’!
West, by using quotes from the Pope had waged a “very stupid campaign”, whereas Bobby Sands
’ camp had waged a “very shrewd and unprincipled election campaign”, said the former Stormont MP who once called for a civil disobedience campaign and then, as a cabinet minister in the power-sharing assembly, seized the cattle of poor people in lieu of payment of rent and rates which they had withheld as a part of that disobedience campaign.
Last Tuesday, SDLP leader John Hume
, still carefully avoiding the SDLP taking up a clear position on the H-Block crisis, urged Bobby Sands to demand facilities of the British administration so that he could take them to the European Commission on Human Rights
for a ruling on the commission’s H-Block report.
Attacking Hume’s smokescreen substitute for hard anti-British criticism, a Sinn Fein spokesperson pointed out: “Last week, Mr. Hume did not run to Europe for a ruling when he advised the electorate to vote against Bobby Sands
. What the people would be really interested to hear is not John Hume’s advice but his attitude towards the British government and its brutal treatment of the political prisoners.”
Discredited West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt
– who had, even before the killing by an unknown gunman of a census collector in Derry two days before polling day, unashamedly attempted to sway the nationalist electorate in favour of Harry West – declared the Sands victory “a mandate for the Provisional IRA”. The Alliance Party said that the Fermanagh and South Tyrone electorate “are to be condemned” and Official Unionist leader, James Molyneaux
, said that the result would be read as “support by the Catholic community for the Provisional IRA.”
*Last bit tomorrow