1981: All has changed, utterly.

Tom McGurk has a piece in the Sunday Business Post today assessing the impact and legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strikes- as does Vincent Browne. McGurk concludes by asserting that, with their deaths, northern nationalists were able to bury ‘their emaciated past,’ defined by submission to the over-powering unionist state.

  • Conor Gillespie

    Before we start I’d just like to propose that we try to make this a cleaner thread then the last two on this subject.

  • Busty Brenda

    ‘Thankfully the populist tide behind the hunger strikes swept the republican movement away from its ghettoised armed resistance and into full scale political organization. That in turn created the ceasefire and the window of political opportunity for Dublin and London to arrive at the good Friday Agreement.’

    This is nonsense. If this were the case the sands family would not be snubbing the SF celebrations. The hunger strikes were about conditions inside the jails, and as part of a struggle to break Englands connection in Ireland. No one can speak for them, but how many times has it been said that they did not die for stormont, they did not die to have the political arm of the IRA administer British rule in Ireland, and they did not die to see partition legitimised.

    How could they have died for any of those things. The election of Sands as an MP, was to pressurise Thatcher, for her to grant their five demands, not to get her to ask her back benchers to move over so that Sands or his followers could join them!!

    The sad part of the whole hunger strike affair is the way the first hunger strike is being air brushed out of history.

  • jim

    The hunger strikes decriminalized the war for both sides and both sides benefited as a result. In many ways it allowed the end game to be played out in a political arena as opposed to the sectarian cull and civil war experienced elsewhere in Europe

  • Nevin

    So where have we progressed to? The paramilitary godfathers rule the roost in many local communities and London and Dublin will probably continue to appease them.

  • Brian Boru

    I think that Thatcher was VERY badly advised back then. She should have realised that if she allowed this to happen the inevitable consequence would be martyrs for the PIRA to recruit hundreds to their cause, resulting in more destruction and death. But no, she had to have her victory. I am no friend of the PIRA but the ham-fisted attitude to counter-insurgency does more harm than good and the numskulls who think otherwise – including in other countries – need to wake up to this.

  • Lurker

    I have just been rereading Ten Men Dead to see if it supports Richard O’Rawe and find, P 292 et al that The Mountain Climber delivered a message to Gerry Adams on the day that O’Rawe says a new offer came in from the Foreign Office; that an offer came on the same day from the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace; that Adams – against the wishes of Mountain Climber – told the ICJP that he had an approach from the Foreign Office with better terms than those they were relaying from the NIO – thus outing the Mountain Climber offer to the astonishment of the NIO and against instructions from the Mountain Climber; that Adams advised Bik to “hold tight” and wait for more from the Mountain Climber, even as Joe McDonnell died.

    Of course, the terms from the Mountain Climber maybe be the same as were available later, but it has to be remembered that the hunger strike did not end with the acceptance of those terms, but because Dear old Dennis Faul scuppered the whole thing by persuading families to take their men off the strike when they went into coma.

    I think we have to hear from Adams now about the Mountain Climber offer.

  • TheDivil

    The 81 hunger strike led to the 84 brighton bomb…the 85 Anglo Irish agreement would suggest that the British changed sides after that sequence of events.

  • siochan

    Busty Brenda,
    “The sad part of the whole hunger strike affair is the way the first hunger strike is being airbrushed out of history.”

    do you mean the first provo hunger strike or do you mean the 1920 hunger strike of Terence MacSwiney?

  • The Dubliner

    “Arguably, without Sands’ sacrifice, there would have been no peace process, no Good Friday Agreement and no abandonment of the armed struggle, at least not in the timeframe that all these things have happened.” – Vincent Browne

    Vincent Browne’s article conveys the volatility and emergent unpredictability of the north. In noting the positive political developments that had their origins with the Hunger Strikers, Browne is careful not to give credit to the Hunger Strikers for them, even while expressing gratitude. It would, after all, be akin to crediting Germany with the creation of Israel. That might have been one of the outcomes of WW2, but it was hardly the purpose. As Browne speculates, “[Bobby Sands] might have joined his sisters in being appalled at what flowed from his sacrifice.”

  • stephen

    Lurker, the leadership called off the strike, after the families forced food into two strikers when they fell into comas. Ultimately, the whole thing collapsed, and for what?

    Dubliner I agree with you.

    Did it achieve anything? More recruits, yes, and probably then, to follow that logic, more murdered human beings.

    As a Unionist, I can also say that the strikes were viewed with a mixture of deep seeded disgust, and then pride at Thatcher standing up to them, and defeating them, although in the close years after, we all thought of how serious this fight would be if these people were prepared to die for it in such an inhuman way with their shit protest etc.

    Ultimatey, the pictures of the rep community, women and children being brought up with such a mindset, banging bin lids and being fully supportive of the ira and its violent tactics simpley reinforced our resolve not to give in, and also it entrenched both sides positios further.

    That being said, as I have posted before, I would suggest that after the strikes had been called off, and the sfleadership seen the power of politics, it might, might, have pushed them in a political direction due to the dawning realisation that the British and the prod community cannot be defeated militarily.

    If that was the case, then, can we say that something however small came out of this mess?

  • Occasional Commentator

    stephen: “being brought up with such a mindset, banging bin lids ….

    Banging bin lids is hardly the most evil of things. It could come across as moving the goalposts if it’s decided that bin lids have to be decommissioned before power is shared!

  • stephen

    ahh, but we thought of that in advance, and changed the bins so now they have flip lids, attached.

    Also, just to confuse them all, we made them different colours….

    Still I do miss the words in red:



  • Glen Taisie

    A former blanketman told me at the weekend that the firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furniture Company in October 1976 which led to the arrest of hungerstrikers Bobby Sands and Joe mcDonnell was an “insurance” job compromised by an informant?

    Can anyone throw any information on the event.

    I hear two volunteers were injured (shot)and Sands and McDonnell arrested for possession of the same (unloaded) revolver.

    Sounds like a real botched operation alright.

  • ct

    Is there ever a day goes by without someone somewhere misquoting Yeats?

  • Fear na Pluide

    A former blanketman told me at the weekend that the firebomb attack on the Balmoral Furniture Company in October 1976 which led to the arrest of hungerstrikers Bobby Sands and Joe mcDonnell was an “insurance” job compromised by an informant?

    Ask him if he knows the identity of any of the three volunteers to escape arrest? You will be able to work the rest out yourself.