Category Archives: Hunger strikes

Photos of Vol Bobby Sands, Vol Jimmy Roe

Bobby Sands on left; Jimmy Roe on right, with Tricolour.

Bobby died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981; Jimmy, one of an earlier generation of fighters, rejoined the armed struggle at the start of the 1970s, in his 40s, and died in 1996.

New from Éirígí

Below are outlines of some of the articles and analysis from the month gone.

This weeks budget in the 26 counties, continued the ongoing and sustained attack on the least well off. The 26 county government has used every excuse from Brexit, to the housing crisis, to the climate disaster as an opportunity to continue the flow of wealth from the poorest in the state to the richest.

Join the Fightback.

 
Concentration Of Ultra-Wealthy In Twenty-Six Counties Fifth Highest In The World
A recent report by Wealth-X entitled “World Ultra Wealth Report 2019” highlights the one-way class war that is being waged by the ultra-wealthy on the rest of the global population.  Defining the ultra-wealthy as individuals who hold a net worth of $30m or more, the report finds that 265,490 such people control $32,000,000,000,000 ($32tn) worth of wealth collectively.  This equates to an average of $121m per individual.

 

A €210,000,000,000 Debt Bomb – The True Cost Of Gombeen Capitalism

During the Celtic Tiger period the debt level of the Twenty-Six County state as relatively stable at about €43,000,000,000 (€43bn). This meant that each worker was carrying a debt of about €22,600.This all changed dramatically when the property market collapsed and the private banking sector went into freefall. On the night of September 28th, 2008 a small group of gombeen politicians from Fianna Fail and The Green Party met with senior civil servants and top bankers to develop a plan to prevent the private banks from going…..well….bankrupt.

The following morning the nation and the wider world woke to the incredible news that the government had guaranteed all of the debts of the private banks, with a potential liability of €440,000,000,000 (€440bn).

 

Teaching Of Irish Must Be Reformed And Prioritised In All Schools
Some senior civil servants have for years worked behind the scenes to marginalise Irish in the education system. Many Irish speakers believe that the issue of derogations is merely the thin end of the wedge and that the compulsory status of Irish will come under fire next. 

http://eirigi.org/latestnews/2019/10/2/teaching-of-irish-must-be-reformed-and-prioritised-in-all-schools

 

Break The Barriers To Education
Third-level education in the Twenty-Six Counties is rapidly becoming inaccessible for large amounts of our young people. Student accommodation costs across the state have risen sharply, with most college students seeing significant rent increases in recent years

Vast amounts of student accommodation have been built across the state by large multinational corporations, keen to take advantage of desperate students.  The rent of more than 90% of student accommodation units built since 2016 is over €800 per-month.

http://eirigi.org/latestnews/2019/10/2/break-the-barriers-to-education

 

On The Shoulders….Bobby Sands – The Rhythm Of Time
Much has been written about the hunger strikers over the years, and no doubt more will be written in the future. However, today we will let a piece by one of them speak for itself. As part of our On the Shoulders of Giants series, today we reproduce The Rhythm of Time, a poem by the first hunger striker to die, Bobby Sands.
http://eirigi.org/latestnews/2019/10/3/on-the-shouldersbobby-sands-the-rhythm-of-time

Get Involved In The Campaign For Universal Public Housing
UP Housing – Universal Public Housing – has the potential to permanently end the housing crisis and radically transform Irish society in the process. When other political parties politely ask for more ‘social and affordable’ housing, they are essentially begging for more of the same – for a slight tweak to the current housing system.

Join Us
Are you ready to join the fight for a New Republic?

The right-wing political, economic and social forces that dominate Ireland today are deeply-embedded, well-resourced and highly-organised.  They will not give up their power or privileges easily.  It will take great patience, discipline and organisation to build a movement that will replace the existing two failed states with one new all-Ireland Republic.
http://eirigi.org/join

Text of oration at Dungiven commemoration for INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch, Sunday, July 28

Below is the oration delivered at the commemoration for hunger-striker INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch in Dungiven on Sunday (July 28). 

Kevin was born on May 25, 1956 and died on August 1, 1981 in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, after an extraordinary 71 days on hunger strike. The Dungiven oration was given by Dan Ó Murchú of the IRSP.

 

A chairde ‘s a comradaithe ba mhaith liom fáilte a chuir raibh uillig, go raibh maith agaibh as a bheith anseo.

Friends and comrades I’d like to welcome you all here today as we remember the life and legacy of INLA Vol. Kevin Lynch.

On the 1st of August 1981 Kevin passed away after 71 gruelling days on hunger strike at the young age of 25, a year older than I am today.

Coming from a staunch republican community the stories from the dark days of the H-Blocks, of the Blanket protest and the hunger strikes were often told.

Dan Ó Murchú delivering the oration in Dungiven; pic by Micheál Ó Ceallaigh

Young republicans, such as myself, who did not live through the dark days of the conflict, often struggle to truly comprehend the conditions that could give rise to such an undaunted determination as was shown by Kevin and his nine comrades.

As a result, I believe, the younger generation has a tendency to almost mythologise Kevin and his comrades.

Over these last few days, speaking with friends and comrades of Kevin and reading about his days as a young lad growing up here in Dungiven, to his days as a revolutionary republican socialist I found the story of a man that trumps all the stories of the Irish mythological heroes. It’s the story of an ordinary lad growing up in Read the rest of this entry

The political evolution of the Provisionals

The article below appeared in the July issue of Socialist Voice, paper of the CPI, as an opinion piece under the headline “Provisional Sinn Féin, republicanism, and socialism: Some comments”.

by Eddie O’Neill and Mark Hayes

By any relevant psephological indices, it is absolutely clear that Sinn Féin did exceedingly poorly—perhaps disastrously—in the recent local and European elections; and the results have clearly precipitated some reflective introspection by various party members.

For example, a defeated Sinn Féin candidate in Dublin, Lynn Boylan, has called for dialogue and co-operation with other “left-wing parties” in future, arguing that competition for votes had handed seats to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. She claimed: “I am a republican, I am a united Irelander, but I am a left wing activist.” Indeed she went on to claim: “That’s how we were able to stop water charges—it’s because the left came together and worked together.”

Let’s just leave aside Sinn Féin’s specific role in the campaign against water charges, which is contentious, and concentrate on the more significant ideological proposition about Sinn Féin and its relationship with “the left.”

Over the years the Provisional movement has undoubtedly flirted with socialism as an ideology. For example, the original Éire Nua programme articulated by the Provisionals had a reasonably well-defined social component, with the emphasis on a more equitable and decentralised distribution of resources. By the late 1970s, under a new “Northern” leadership, this trend was accentuated. This was perhaps most vividly expressed in Jimmy Drumm’s speech of 1977 (apparently written by Adams et al.) which stressed the need for social liberation and the importance of standing in solidarity with workers against British colonial rule and the “fascist” Free State. (The speech also, incidentally, rejected a reformed Stormont and power-sharing.)

In this period Adams not only criticised capitalism, he was fond of quoting Connolly, while Sinn Féin explicitly identified itself with the ANC, PLO, and Sandinistas. Some commentators even detected the influence of Marxism; and though this was hugely exaggerated, there was a sense in which Sinn Féin identified itself as an integral part of a global “left” movement. It undoubtedly established its radical credentials through community work and activism in working-class areas.

However, there was always another, more pragmatic and opportunistic dimension to Sinn Féin strategy. This could be detected during and after the Hunger Strike, when the process of politicisation sought to reconfigure Sinn Féin as an electoral force. It was confirmed in a very personal way to one of the writers of this article when a letter was smuggled out of Albany prison in 1983 (written by Eddie O’Neill and Ray McLaughlin, and signed by other Republican prisoners). This missive explicitly addressed “the left” and urged all comrades to show solidarity with the Irish revolution while calling for a “broad front” of left progressive forces to form a common platform against imperialism.

The correspondence was completely disregarded by the Republican leadership at the time. The writing was on the wall: Sinn Féin was moving towards conventional constitutional politics. It eventually came to see itself as the natural repository for middle-class Catholic votes and positioned itself as the successor to the SDLP as the primary representative of the “Nationalist” community.

In relation to the north, Sinn Féin eventually adopted the diplomatic strategy of. . .  continue reading here. . .

“What did it feel like to be shot?” Interview with Bernadette by Blindboy Boatclub

To mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in the six counties last year, Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubber Bandits hosted a podcast at Ulster Hall in Belfast on October 6th 2018. He interviewed veteran Irish revolutionary Bernadette (Devlin) McAliskey in front of a packed room.  The podcast is over two hours long. In this part he poke to her about the loyalist attempt to assassinate her and her husband Michael on January 16, 1981.  At the time, Bernadette was a key figure organising support for republicans being held in British prisons, including the blanket protest, the dirty protest, and the 1980 hunger strike. At the time of the attempt on her life, a new hunger strike was in the air – this was the famous hunger strike of that era, with ten prisoners’ deaths.  The entire interview will be published on The Transcripts.

Blindboy: When we were backstage I was asking you about, we were discussing the nature of trauma and I was asking would it be okay if I asked you about the time you had an assassination attempt. And you said: Yes, that would be okay.

Bernadette: Uh-huh. Yep. That’s okay. That’s okay. Yeah.

Blindboy: Can we talk about that?

Bernadette: Yes, we can talk about that.

Blindboy: So – what was it like being shot nine times?

Bernadette: It was interesting. It was interesting. And it’s funny that I can talk about that much more easily than I can talk about that memory, you know, that memory of Bloody Sunday is more traumatic for me than the time that I was shot. And I think it was because, you know, as we were saying, it’s because I didn’t see Bloody Sunday coming. I didn’t see the 5th of October coming.

But by the time people came to our house and kicked the door in and held my two daughters, one at that time four and the other nine, at gunpoint while their parents were shot I knew they were Read the rest of this entry

From the vaults: British Labour Party & Ireland – 60 years of shame (1981)

Supporting the Tories against the hunger strikers in 1981 was typical of the British Labour Party; moreover, they were the ones who removed political status for republican prisoners in the first place

The following article is from the July-August 1981 issue of the next step, a Marxist review published in Britain from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.  It was put out by the Revolutionary Communist Party, who were the force behind first the Smash the Prevention of Terrorism Act Campaign and then the Irish Freedom Movement.  I’ve added the word ‘British’ in a few places to make clear it is the BLP and not the (equally awful) Irish ones the article is about.  Although it irks me that the Dublin regime is referred to as “the Republic” I have left the term as is, because that is how it was written in the original article.

by Dave Douglas

“Your Labour Party is the subject of jest in Ireland.  You sent us a deputation, and one of its members was a member of the Government which shot Connolly, and all of them have been and are still silent on Larkin’s exile.  Our memories are long: is it any wonder they are bitter?  In a few days your Parliament will vote on the Military appropriations.  Will your Labour Party oppose them, or will they vote payment for a military occupation of Irelan?  Of what use is their hypocritical sympathy for us, their acts give the lie to their words.”

  • Eamon Macalpine, “Open Letter to the British Workers”, in the Sheffield Worker, April 1920, quoted in Bill Moore, How we stopped the war against Russia but failed to free Ireland, Sheffield, Holberry Society, 1981.

A few days after the British Labour Party’s ‘Northern Ireland’ study group agreed that the party should accept a commitment to Irish unity, an overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted for the renewal of Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Alan MacSimoin (1957-2018)

Alan MacSimoin 1957-2018 was a long-time anarchist activist and a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement.

MacSimoin joined the Official Republican Movement (Official Sinn Fein) as a young man in the 1970s.  He was involved in the Murray Defence Committee in 1976-77 to stop the state execution of anarchists Noel and Marie Murray for the killing of a member of the police.

He was also involved with the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement’s boycott of South African goods in Ireland and the Irish Anti-Nuclear Movement that stopped the building of nuclear power stations around the coast of Ireland in the 1970s.

Below is an interview my friend Mick Healy did with him a year or two back and has passed on to me . . .

 

Republican POWs and the struggle in Maghaberry today

by Nathan Hastings

The following is designed to outline the historical context of Republican Prisoners and their conditions in Maghaberry Jail. This is not aimed at providing a detailed history, but at illuminating the issues which exist in Maghaberry today.

There is a long history of Irish women and men being imprisoned as a result of their opposition to the occupation of Ireland. Through-out this history there has been a recurring theme of Britain and its agents using imprisonment and conditions in the sites of imprisonment to attack and harass those who it has viewed as rebellious or troublesome. This has been carried out as a matter of both direct state policy and the cruelty and resentment of those in control in the sites of captivity.

In response to this there has been the recurring theme of struggle and resistance to oppression amongst those imprisoned through generations. This theme can be seen, for example, in the refusal of members and supporters of the Land League to wear prison clothes, shave or cut their hair whilst imprisoned, opposing the prison uniform. The response to this in the 1880s was an offer of civilian-style clothing.

This is almost identical to Read the rest of this entry

Jim Lane speech at 1982 Seamus Costello commemoration

Below is the speech delivered by Jim Lane at the commemoration for Seamus Costello on the 5th anniversary of his murder by the pro-Moscow ‘Official’ IRA.  Jim was a member of the central leadership of the IRSP at the time, becoming its national chairperson in 1983.  The speech was delivered at Seamus’ graveside in Bray on October 3, 1982.

The original text had some very large paragraphs.  I have broken these up, simply to make it easier to read.  None of the text has been changed.

Special thanks to Mick Healy for passing the original text on to me and suggesting I put it up here.

Seamus Costello

Gathering beside the graves of our patriot dead is a long-established custom for Irish revolutionaries. In doing so, we honour our dead and seek strength and inspiration to help further the cause for which they struggled. Such strength and inspiration derives not alone in recalling the deeds of our dead patriots, but also in restating and clarifying our political philosophy, in terms of existing conditions. The deeds of our dead comrade, Séamus Costello, republican socialist and founder member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party are legion. This year in a fitting and timely tribute, such deeds have been recorded with the publication of a book by the Séamus Costello Memorial Committee. For an insight into the contribution that Séamus made to the revolutionary socialist struggle in Ireland, it is required reading, guaranteed to strengthen our resolve and provide inspiration. Therein can be found not alone an account of his life, achievements and writings, but an excellent collection of tributes from his friends and comrades. No words of mine spoken in tribute could match theirs.

Jim Lane today

Nora Connolly-O’Brien, recently deceased daughter of Irish socialist republican martyr James Connolly, considered him to be the greatest follower of her father’s teachings in this generation and hoped that his vision for Ireland would be realised in this generation.

For Tony Gregory, Séamus “personified more than any Irish man or woman, at least of our generation, the republican socialist – the revolutionary activist who organised and worked in tenant organisations, trade unions, housing action committees and cultural organisations.”

From the young men and women of the republican socialist movement, to whom he was friend and mentor, came the following tributes:

Gerry Roche – “Like Lenin, he was pragmatic in his tactics, and while recognising the corruption of the courts and parliament, he was quite prepared to use them as a platform while remaining totally inflexible in his politics.”

Seán Doyle – “Séamus Costello was a man of the people. He got his degree in working-class involvement, on the streets with his people, campaigning with them for justice.”

Niall Leonach – “He had an irrepressible dedication and energy to carry on with the struggle, to learn new lessons and to break new ground.”

Íte Ní Chionnaith – “Bhí a fhios aige in gcónai go raibh a bheatha i mbaol agus go mbeadh, an fhaí is a lean sé den obair a bhí ar bun aige ach níor lig sé dó sin cur as dó. Ba chailliúint gan áireamh é do phobal na tíre seo, thuaidh agus theas.”

And it was Miriam Daly, first chairperson of the Séamus Costello Memorial Committee and a member of the Ard-Chomhairle of the IRSP when Séamus was murdered, who highlighted the point that made him stand out as a republican socialist, when she said he never  Read the rest of this entry

Long Kesh documents collection

A substantial body of material produced by prisoners in Long Kesh is now available.  The blurb for the site for these states:

“All these documents were written by republican prisoners in HMP Maze / Long Kesh.  All this material was confiscated by the authorities after the last escape attempt.  They did not get the backup disks which were hidden in a mattress and subsequently smuggled out of the prison in a box of chocolate which was taken out on a visit.  Much of this material was considered lost forever and I have decided to make it available to give an insight into prison life.  Some prisoners were under the illusion that a lot of this stuff was confidential as they saved to floppy disk, once it was inserted into the computers, the prison authorities had access to it.  These documents are made available for information only and the owner does not support any political groupings.”

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B5zInPpmsywNZXFOZllQVVhpcEE&usp=sharing