*reprint from Jan '04 of this blog, more pertinent around this time of year than its previous publication.
The aftermath of the 1981 Hungerstrike: An article of some sort of closure.
Having exhausted all means of protest, the brave men suffering in the H-Blocks called an end to the second Long Kesh strike in as many years. On the 3rd of October, the prisoner spokespersons released a statement
stating an end to the death and mourning.
The many reasons cited in this statement and elsewhere included Church deception in trying to push the strikers' families into breaking the Volunteers' wishes not to be brought off strike. They attempted to guilt the loved ones into believing the mens' souls would be damned to hell for their stand. It is typical of the treachery of the Catholic Church in Irish history.
After this deception, it was apparent that many of the men still on strike following the death of Micky Devine would be pulled off in light of any immediate danger to their lives. With this in mind, it was decided by the prisoners' that the strike was at a point where it would be pointless to carry on.
Their statement had been made with the murder of the ten Volunteers between May 5th and August 20th by the indifference and ignorance of the Conservative British government. Another thing that spoke loudly for the prisoners' cause was the large number of votes received by prisoners in elections both in the Six Counties and in the Free State.
Paddy Agnew topped the poll in Louth, Bobby Sands
was elected as MP for the Fermanagh/Tyrone constituency, and Kieran Doherty was elected for the Cavan/Monaghan constituency. First preference votes received by prisoners and prisoner representatives were as follows: Kieran Doherty
polled first preference 9,121 (15%); Paddy Agnew, Louth, 8,368 (18%); Joe McDonnell
, Sligo/Leitrim, 5,634; Martin Hurson
, Longford/Westmeath, 4,573 (10%); Sean McKenna (1980 hungerstriker
), Kerry North, 3,860; Kevin Lynch
, Waterford, 3,337; Tony O'Hara (Patsy's
brother), Dublin West, 3,034; Mairead Farrell
(later killed on Gibraltar), Cork North Central, 2,751 and Tom McAllister, Clare, 2,120. Also, later Owen Carson, a prisoner representative, won the Westminster by-election to replace the murdered Bobby Sands in Fermanagh/Tyrone.
The determination of the prisoners to see their cause through until their last breath captivated the people of Ireland. This was shown both by the above mentioned election results and also by the strength of the pan-nationalist front forged by the H-Block/Armagh Committees. Such unification was not seen since internment and the civil rights marches.
After 217 days of hunger striking
between the two protests, the blanketmen called off their death fast. Many Volunteers were still in the wings ready to take their place, but with no indication that the demands would be met, the prisoners and the movement as a whole felt that more dead Volunteers would accomplish very little.
In a purposely late move by the Hell-Bitch
Thatcher's government, political status was granted. It was granted at a time when the negative publicity would have been at a lull for the British. The concession that 10 men died and thousands suffered for was nothing more than a black eye for Thatcher's Conservatives. The Brits played the hardline and watched good men die only later to give the remaining brave men what they had long fought for.
All historically minded people need to remember the facts of this tragic event. It was the turning point that the new Belfast-based leadership of the Provos was waiting for. They began to shift Sinn Fein
to a more nationalist and less republican position. They entered candidates into the 1982 Assembly elections and pulled more than 10% of first preference vote. But this was not was those men died for. They died to see Ireland free of British tampering.
By running Provisional SF members in the Six County statelet's elections, the Adams' leadership of the Provos were doing nothing more than reinforcing the illegal border that hundreds of men died to abolish. It needs to be known that the Provos are not a Republican party. They are still on a shift that will ultimately see them joining the ranks of Parnell's Irish Party and Fianna Fail
. They are replacing the Stoops
as the constitutional nationalist party of the Six Counties.