06 May 2006

Sands relatives in 25th anniversary snub to Sinn Fein

Belfast Telegraph

**From yesterday

By Claire Regan
05 May 2006

The family of Bobby Sands - long allied with dissident republicans - will today not be participating in Sinn Fein plans to mark the 25th anniversary of the IRA man's death.

The hunger striker's relatives are reported to have decided on a private commemoration in favour of any of the 'official' events to mark what is one of the biggest days in the republican calendar.

Members of the Sands family are known to disagree with the path Sinn Fein have taken in recent years in efforts to establish peace.

Sands' sister, Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, is married to Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt who has been jailed for directing dissident terrorism.

It was on this day in 1981 that Sands, a 27-year-old Maze prisoner, died after 66 days on hunger strike as part of a campaign to win political status within the jail. He was the first of ten to die.

Sinn Fein MPs Martin McGuinness and Michelle Gildernew will join republicans, friends and colleagues of Sands in the former Maze Prison for a short ceremony in the hospital wing where he died.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was interned with Sands in the '70s, will today visit a hunger strike memorial at Hackballscross, Co Louth, before addressing a commemorative event in Navan, Co Meath.

Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein Assemblyman Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker, will take part in a parade and address a rally in Derry. There will also be vigils throughout Dublin and events are also being planned in Ballincolig, Co Cork and Kilcoo in Co Down.

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