Brendan Hughes, 1949-2008.

Brendan Hughes, the leader of the 1980 hunger strike, died in hospital last night. Here are some quotes from Brendan. He will be missed by those who loved him.

“In 1969 we had a naive enthusiasm about what we wanted. Now in 1999 we have no enthusiasm. And it is not because people are war weary – they are politics weary. The same old lies regurgitated week in week out. With the war politics had some substance. Now it has none. The political process has created a class of professional liars and unfortunately it contains many republicans. But I still think that potential exists to bring about something different. And I speak not just about our own community but about the loyalist community also. Ex-prisoners from both and not the politicians can effect some radical change.”

“Stormont is still there, but it is a Stormont with Republicans in it. Stormont has not changed. The whole apparatus of the Stormont regime is still there, it is still controlled by the British, it is still unjust, it is still cruel. The RUC is still there. The whole civil service are still there, the same civil servants who controlled the shoot-to-kill policy, who controlled the plastic bullets, who controlled the H Blocks of Long Kesh, who took responsibility for ten men dying. It is all still there. But, saviour of saviours, we have two Sinn Féin ministers there, who happen to close hospitals. The sad thing about all this is that the British set this up. This is the British answer to the Republican problem in Ireland. It’s a British solution, it’s not an Irish solution. It’s not a solution that we have control of. There are people up there and the British ministers are handing money out. But the whole thing is built on sand.”

“I am not advocating dumb militarism or a return to war. Never in the history of republicanism was so much sacrificed and so little gained; too many left dead and too few achievements. Let us think most strongly before going down that road again. I am simply questioning the wisdom of administering British rule in this part of Ireland. I am asking what happened to the struggle in all Ireland — what happened to the idea of a thirty-two county socialist republic. That, after all, is what it was all about. Not about participating in a northern administration that closes hospitals and attacks the teachers’ unions. I am asking why we are not fighting for and defending the rights of ordinary working people, for better wages and working conditions. Does thirty years of struggle boil down to a big room at Stormont, ministerial cars, dark suits and the implementation of the British Patten Report?”

“It has been the futility of it all. From a nationalist perspective alone what we have now we could have had at any time in the last twenty-five years. But even nationalist demands don’t seem to matter any more. And in the process we have lost much of our honesty, sincerity and comradeship.”

“The republican leadership has always exploited our loyalty.”