14 March 2006

Bobby Sands Biography To Be Launched In Derry

Derry Journal

Tuesday 14th March 2006

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THE AUTHOR of a new biography on Bobby Sands will be in Derry today for the official launch of the book. Denis O'Hearn's biography of the hunger striker, "Nothing But an Unfinished Song," has just been released and has already attracted critical acclaim. The book deals with Sands' early life, his involvement in the IRA and subsequent imprisonment and participation in the prison protests, culminating in his death on 5th May 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike. (Click to view book cover)

Speaking to the 'Journal' ahead of the Derry launch of the book in the Tower Hotel tonight, Mr. O'Hearn, who is a professor of sociology at Queens University, Belfast, said that he had been working on the book for almost six years. "Most people are aware of Bobby Sands the hunger striker but not much is known about him as a person and a leader. That was why I wrote this book. We have all seen the grainy pictures of Bobby Sands and the images of him on murals but few people know who he was beyond what he did. I thought it was important that people know more about what kind of a man he was and how he found this amazing inner strength to do what he did," he said.

Mr.O'Hearn admits that he did not know much about Bobby Sands before he began the project. "I did not know more than anyone else before I started writing this book. Obviously I was aware of Bobby Sands but I learned an awful lot about Bobby as a leader, not just a hunger striker. He had a tremendous ability to reinvent himself." He spent most of his adult life in prison and he used his time for personal development. He learned Irish and taught himself to play the guitar and, most importantly, he became politically sophisticated. He was political before he went onto jail but he sophisticated his politics in prison.

"When I was doing my research for this book I heard a story about Bobby in the H Blocks. Apparently he was in his cell with Tony O'Hara and Tony was lying sleeping and Bobby asked him why he spent so much of his time sleeping and said he was wasting his opportunities. That sums him up well," he said.

Before writing the book, Mr. O'Hearn interviewed many republicans who were imprisoned with Bobby Sands and has said that their assistance was "invaluable." "I would not have been able to write this book without the help of men like Bik McFarlane and Seanna Walsh. They opened a lot of doors for me. No former prisoners refused to help me, even ones that I doorstepped. It has taken me almost six years to write this book and it was a very in depth process." he said.

Mr. O'Hearn also said that the book was intended for activists all over the world. "I have been getting some very good feedback since the book was released in the United States. I think that the memory of Bobby Sands has faded outside of the Irish in America. I wrote this book for activists all over the world but hopefully it will reawaken interest in Bobby Sands in America," he said.

Nothing But an Unfinished Song will be launched in the Tower Hotel tonight at 7.30pm.

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