05 May 2005

Daily Ireland

A poignant anniversary

The 24th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands MP will ensure that today’s elections will be a poignant occasion for republicans across the North of Ireland.
Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike. His successful election as an anti-H-Block MP for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency just three weeks earlier changed the political landscape forever. The 1980/1981 hunger strikes were the culmination of the campaign of resistance against the British Government’s attempt to criminalise republican prisoners.
The event resulted in the deaths of ten men but generated mass mobilisation of the North’s nationalist population on a scale not witnessed since the aftermath of Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Bobby Sands was nominated as an anti-H-Block candidate and won the election after the death of Frank Maguire MP.
Jake Jackson, a former Blanketman and cellmate of Bobby Sands in Long Kesh, spoke of the legacy of Sands’ death yesterday at the rededication of a mural on the Falls Road in Belfast to Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers.
He said: “I’m glad to be here today, 24 years after Bobby Sands died on hunger-strike, to defend the Irish freedom struggle and to defend republicanism. Bobby and his nine comrades died on hunger strike and it was a catalytic event which changed the course of Irish history. I think tomorrow again, in Bobby’s own words, everyone has their own particular part to play and no part is too great or too small.
Speaking on today’s elections, Mr Jackson added: “Right across the Six Counties there will be young people and old people and people just about my age who will be out on the stumps from half-six in the morning to half-ten or half-eleven at night and what they’re going to deliver is a resounding mandate for Sinn Féin which is going to change the course of politics on this island yet again. “It’s kind of fitting that on Bobby Sands’ anniversary we’re going to the polls and as Bobby himself said, our revenge is going to be the laughter of our children.”

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