27 March 2006

Candle to remember 1981 hunger strikes

Daily Ireland

Initiative shows solidarity with sacrifice of men


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usRepublicans across the country yesterday lit candles to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.
Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the Co Antrim jail began the hunger strike in March 1981. Ten men had died by the time it was called off in October.
Candles were lit and placed in the front windows of republican homes across Ireland.
Bik McFarlane, the IRA officer commanding in Long Kesh at the time of the 1981 hunger strike, said the commemorative candle was an initiative aimed at remembering in a small way the sacrifices of the ten men.
He said it was also a way of showing continuing solidarity with their families, especially the mothers on Mother’s Sunday, 25 years after the events.
“We chose Mother’s Day as the day when we are asking people to place the candle in the window of their homes as a particular tribute to the immediate families of those who died and as a tribute to the courage they displayed throughout those long and difficult months from March to October 1981,” he said.
The first to die was Bobby Sands, who began the fast and who was elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in an April by-election. His death on May 5, 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike was followed by the biggest funeral ever seen in the North. Around 100,000 people lined the route to Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.
The hunger strike smashed British attempts to criminalise Republican prisoners and kick started Sinn Féin’s entry into electoral politics.

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