Random Ramblings from a Republican
April 18, 1981
TIME IS RUNNING OUT
TIME IS RUNNING OUT
A Long Kesh prison doctor has informed the family of IRA hunger-striker and Westminster MP, Bobby Sands that his life span should now be measured in days rather than weeks.
The nationwide euphoria, naturally felt at Sands' truly historic electoral victory in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, must be urgently transformed into decisively effective, political pressure on the British Government. The Brits must be forced to cease their intransigence and to grant political status to republican prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh Jail, and thus save the life of Sands, and the lives of his three comrades on hungerstrike; Frankie Hughes, Patsy O'Hara, and Raymond McCreesh.
Laying Down Their Lives
Today, H-Block hunger-striker Bobby Sands, IRA Volunteer, and Westminster MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, is slowly dying inside Long Kesh prison camp. Time is running out for Sands, whose markedly deteriorating physical condition is now increasingly giving grave cause for concern.
On Wednesday, a prison doctor informed his family that his life spand should now be measured in days, rather than weeks.
Just as in 1916 there were men and women in Ireland prepared to lay down their lives in repudiation of British rule and in assertion of Irish sovereignty, so too this Easter weekend four young Irishmen, including Sands, lie in the prison hospital in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh on hungerstrike, preparing to lay down their live in the service of that same cause.
The battleground for this, the last necessary rising against the injustice of British Rule in Ireland, has, because of partition, been in the occupied six counties. But the real battleground for the political status campaign has been within the confines of jail, fought by imprisoned republicans.
They, like the signatories who put their names to the 1916 proclamation, have fallen into the clutches of a brutal enemy, and even under these harsh conditions make no apology for having upheld in arms, and now through the force of personal courage, their Irish republicanism.
To the fore in this battle is Bobby Sands, whose principled stand was overwhelmingly endorsed by the nationalist people in the historic by-election victory in Fermanagh and South Tyrone last week. By this Easter Sunday, Bobby Sands will be on his fiftieth day of hunger-strike, Frankie Hughes will be on his thirty-sixth day, and Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara will be on their twenty-ninth day.
But Bobby Sands' life and the lives of his three comrades can still be saved, and the H-Block/Armagh prisoners' just demands can be won. The euphoria naturally felt nationwide at Sands' truly historic electoral victory, must be urgently transformed into decisively effective political pressure. The rising anger and tremendous solidarity of the nationalist people - as unquestionably demonstrated by the election victory - must increasingly be impressively demonstrated on the streets, and forcefully transmitted to London via what levers of power are available in Dublin and Belfast, especially through pressurising the Fianna Fail and SDLP leaderships, who pose themselves as representatives of the nationalist people.
The formula for a prisoners' victory remains precisely the same as ever, despite the continued intransigence and arrogant contempt for Irish opinion demonstrated this week by British premier Margaret Thatcher and Northern direct-ruler Humphrey Atkins.
The British must be forced to realise that the cost to them - measured in terms of growing political instability in Ireland and an increasingly tarnished international image - of denying the prisoners their rightful political status, will inevitably exceed the cost of dropping their criminalisation policy. A doomed policy, discredited internationally by the nationalist electorate of Fermanagh and South Tyrone symbolically rejecting it at the polls on behalf of the nationalist people as a whole.
And no wonder. For the British government's five-year old attempt - after eight centuries of attempts - to criminalize the cause of Irish independence and those who seriously attempt to achieve it, is an attack not just on republicans but chips something off all those with a national consciousness, no matter to which particular political or cultural organisation they may belong. This attack is all-embracing and intolerable, because it fundamentally presupposes a right on Britain's behalf to interfere in Irish affairs and set political values, and to accept that it is to be immediately compromised.
Also, the methods Britain has employed to enforce this criminalisation policy have been cruel and inhumane and need no further recitation.
This Saturday (April 25, 1981) a national march and rally is being held in Dublin. A week on Sunday a similar demonstration is planned for Belfast. Be there!
These protests will provide the last opportunity to peacefully demonstrate on the streets that the Irish people are not prepared to allow Bobby Sands to be a sacrificial lamb on the altar of British inhumanity and short-sighted political expediency.