14 May 2006

Hunger strike plates anger Maze families


Henry McDonald
Sunday May 14, 2006
The Observer

Families of the 1981 hunger strikers along with H-block protest veterans have denounced Sinn Fein's main support group in the United States for selling plates commemorating the death fast.

A New Jersey branch of Noraid - the organisation that has raised funds for the IRA and Sinn Fein since 1969 - is charging $25 per plate, plus $7 shipping. All 10 hunger strikers are pictured on each plate.

Last night the brother of one of the 10 who died in the fast 25 years ago described the commemorative plates as 'tacky in the extreme'.

Tony O'Hara, who was Bobby Sands's cellmate in the Maze in 1978, was a prisoner in the H-blocks when his younger brother Patsy became the first Irish National Liberation Army inmate to die on hunger strike. Three out of the 10 prisoners belonged to the INLA.

After seeing the plate online with his brother's image on it, O'Hara said: 'The image of Patsy and the other two INLA prisoners who died were hijacked a long time ago by the republican movement. What is unacceptable is that a group like Noraid, which has many right-wing supporters in America, never liked the INLA because they were republican socialists. Yet now they are using Patsy and the other boys' pictures.'

Richard O'Rawe, the IRA's press officer inside the Maze during the 1981 hunger strike, said: 'You eat food off a plate and yet they have brought out a plate to commemorate the men who died refusing food. It's tacky and just about making money.'

Frank Connell, of the Noraid Luke Dillon Unit and originally from Co. Cavan, said: 'Of course it's appropriate. No food after all will ever be eaten off those plates. They are purely commemorative.'

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