The legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike
This weekend marks the 40th Anniversary of the ending of the 1981 Hunger Strike. In this weeks letter from Ireland Ciarán Quinn reflects on its legacy. Don't forget to check out our interview with Laurence McKeown at 12.00 midday Sunday October 3rd.
If you are in Philly check out their commemoration running from 2.00pm- 6.00pm on Sunday with exhibitions, talks and music.
And one not to miss the joint US-Irish Production "1981 in Story and Song" Sunday 3.00pm Eastern
A Letter from Ireland
The Legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike
Sunday 3rd October marks the 40th Anniversary of the ending of the 1981 Hunger Strike, Commemorative events will be hosted in Ireland, across the US, and online.
This week I had the privilege to record a conversation between our own Jay Hodges and Laurence McKeown who survived 70 days on Hunger Strike. The section of the interview dealing with the hunger strike is incredibly moving without sentimentality. He describes the brutality of the regime and the resistance of the prisoners. But more than that we get an insight into the love and comradeship that sustained their protest.
When the Hunger Strike ended, prisoners were still refusing food and nearing death. They had joined the protest having watched on as 10 of their comrades died. They were resolute and unbroken.
As Laurence reminded us, at the end of the Hunger Strikes they had not achieved all of their five demands.
They had won the right to wear their own clothes which in turn meant they were released from their cells. They could meet and plan new tactics and actions. Within two years from being locked up 24/7, naked, and on hunger strike; they pulled off the greatest escape in prison history and eventually secured all their demands.
The British set out to paint the republican prisoners as common criminals without popular support. By the end of the Hunger Strike prisoners had been elected as members of parliament, the people mobilized and it was Britain that was in the international dock.
Mirroring the developments within the jail the Hunger Strikes opened up new opportunities to secure justice, peace, and Irish Unity. It also challenged Irish Republicans to develop new tactics and strategies.
The Hunger Strike ended forty years ago but as the prisoners demonstrated the struggle continues.
The hard-won victories in Long Kesh forty years ago means that we now have a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish Unity.
Securing Irish Unity is a fitting tribute to their memory. I am sure that the US will be with us every step of the way.
This weekend let us remember, let us be thankful that the conflict is over, and let us recommit to achieving a new and united Ireland.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Fein Representative to North America