The Funeral of Bobby Sands
9th May 1981
Bobby Sands, as representative of the blanket men and women in Armagh, died rather than be branded a criminal. The hungerstrike was embarked on for five just and reasonable demands, (to give testimony to the world that Irish republican prisoners will never wear British prison uniforms or do prison work and must have right to associate with each other and communicate with their families and have remission restored). The callous intransigence of the British government has made the hungerstrike a symbol of the struggle for freedom and Bobby Sands and his comrades are symbols of Irish resistance to British rule in Ireland.
Bobby Sands is a symbol of hope for the unemployed, for the poor and oppressed, for the homeless, for those divided by partition, for those trying to unite our people. He symbolises a new beginning and I recall the words of his manifesto to the Protestant people: "The Protestant people have nothing to fear from me." They too have their part to play in building a new future, a new Ireland.
We have the moral right to struggle for freedom and self-determination. Britain has no right in our country and has no faith in her pretence because the moral right she pretends to have has to be backed up by a monstrous war machine of guns and tanks and the torture chambers of Castlereagh and the H-Blocks and by creation of division within the Irish people.
Bobby Sands has not died in vain. his hungerstrike and the sacrifice of his life is a cameo of the entire resistance movement. He symbolises the true Irish nation which never has surrendered and never will. Let us picture him lying all alone in his cell, hisbody tortured and twisted in pain, surrounded by his enemies and isolated from his comrades and nothing to fight with but his will and determination.
The big British murder machine assisted by those in high places in church and state tried to break his spirit. There was those in power in Dublin who could have saved him but as Liam Mellows said in 1922: "Men will get into positions and hold power and will desire to remain undisturbed."
"They tried to compromised Bobby Sands, they tried to compromise his supporters, but they failed. Around the world Bobby Sands has humiliated the British government. In Bobby Sands' death they have sown the seeds of their of destruction. Bobby once wrote about Britain that "her actions will eventually seal the fate of her rule in Ireland for they may hold our bodies, but while our minds are free victory is assured."
They people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone stood by the prisoners and gave them a mandate for political status. This has been rejected by the arrogant British government. We, the people who supported Bobby Sands and the blanket men and women of Armagh and who have tried everything to get the British to give the five demands, that though we have not got the tanks and guns (and please God this will no always be so) we can only conclude, along with PH Pearse that we must take what they will not give and that there is no way in which freedom can be obtained, and when obtained, maintained, except by armed men.
Finally, I salute you, Bobby Sands. Yours has been a tough and lonely battle but you have been victorious. Your courage and bravery has been an inspiration to us all and today we take strength from your example. The courage of your family has been an inspiration to us. You have the consolation of knowing that your son died, with all of you assembled at his death bed, free in conscience and now free from the hardships of the H-Blocks.
Bobby Sands, your sacrifice will not be in vain. We re-dedicate ourselves and our struggle and pledge ourselves not only to win the five demands but to drive England out of our country once and for all Bua do Shaighduiri Arm Phoblacht na hEireann!