04 May 2006

Anniversary of hunger strikes to be marked by a series of events


By Francesca Ryan

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAMONG the series of events taking place this weekend to commemorate a momentous time in Irish history – the 1981 hunger strikes – is a programme of events launched by a collaboration of the Roddy McCorley Society and the Coiste 81 Committee's Lenadoon branch.

The four-day programme was mobilised last June when the two groups conferred about the most appropriate way to remember the sacrifice undertaken by the hunger strikers on this, the 25th anniversary.

“The reason we teamed up with the Lenadoon 81 Committee is because we cover the same catchment area," explained John Stewart of the Roddy McCorley Society.

“We met up with the families and representatives of each of the hunger strikers and this brought us to as far away as Mayo where Frank Stagg, Michael Gaughan and Sean McNeela were from.

“The result is that we have most families coming to the weekend's events, which is very significant."

The programme of events gets underway tonight (Thursday, May 4) when the Roddy's plays host to the premiere of Aisling Ghéar's production of Dialann Ocrais/Diary of a Hunger Striker.

“We are happy to be hosting the first production of this play which will be followed by a quiz with the hunger strike as its theme," continued John.
“This will be the first quiz of its kind here at the Roddy's and we intend to make it an annual event."

On Friday the club's Tom Williams Room will hold an exhibition honouring the struggles in both the H-Blocks and Armagh prison.

The exhibition will run from 2pm to 7.30pm and will be followed by entertainment provided by Take It Easy.

“Our main focus is on the Saturday and Sunday," said Gerry McConville, from the Lenadoon 81 Committee.

“We are going to have representatives of the hunger strikers, in most cases family members, here on Saturday for most of the day."

At 4pm, the finals of an underage GAA blitz will be taking place at the pitches of the Rossa, Sarsfields and St Paul's GAA clubs.

At 5.30pm on Saturday, a march and rally will take place at the monument commemorated to Julie Livingstone at the bottom of Lenadoon Avenue.
Julie was shot on May 12, 1981, by the British army as she returned from the shop, she died from her injuries the following day.

“There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Julie's monument where Gerry McConville will give a speech before the crowd, accompanied by two bands, marches up Lenadoon Avenue and into the grounds of the Roddy's," said John.

Five years ago, the Roddy's had 12 trees planted to commemorate the hunger strikers, on Saturday families and friends of the 12 men will lay wreaths at the trees.

“Saturday's event will be chaired by David McGivern, chairman of the Roddy McCorley Society, and Gerry Adams will be giving the main oration after the wreath-laying ceremony, before we head into the club for entertainment," said John.

At 3pm on Sunday a discussion entitled ‘The Hunger Strike Period in Lenadoon’ will take place in the Roddy's.

Speakers will include Padraig McCotter, Seany Simpson and Brendan Mulvenna.

There will also be an all-day exhibition at the Roddy's of posters, cuttings and photgraphs from the period of the hunger strikes.

“The idea of this whole programme is to cover all aspects of the hunger strike, what happened in the H-Blocks, what happened with the families and what was going on in the streets," said Gerry.

“The discussion is aimed at getting a flavour of what was happening in the streets during that period of 1981. It was an important year for the community, for the people of Lenadoon, where Joe McDonnell was from, and we are encouraging everyone to come to the discussion to relay their memories, share experiences and participate in the discussion."

A recital of revolutionary poetry, readings and songs in conjunction with the Roddy McCorley Writers' Group will follow the discussion before entertainment throughout the complex on Sunday evening.

“Everyone is more than welcome to all of these events and we would urge as much local participation as possible. The more people that come, the more successful the commemorations will be."

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan

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