04 May 2006

We Say: And 25 years later


Is it really 25 years since the dread news arrived that Bobby Sands had died? Is it really 25 years since that awful cycle of death and dying that ended up in the death of 10 young men inside Long Kesh and the streets outside the camp in turmoil.

It is. It is indeed. And it is a tribute to Bobbby Sands and his brave comrades that those 25 years have passed so quickly, with the republican struggle growing stronger and more confident and the impetus towards an island of equals well-night unstoppable.

Of course there have been terrible times and awful setbacks, but when the political tally is taken, when the gains are measured against the losses, it can be seen that the fresh faces of those men who gave their lives in the cause of justice and freedom loom ever larger in the political pantheon while those from right across the political spectrum who callously abused them and who cynically opposed their just demands are yesterday’s men and women.

The wide and impressive range of events that has been organised across the island of Ireland – and in Belfast in particular – to mark the anniversary is testimony to the increasing relevance of the hunger strikers and their ideals in modern nationalism and republicanism. 25 years ago to have voted for Bobby Sands, to have taken to streets in support of the blanketmen was to be marked down as an undesirable, to be sidelined and demonised at best, to be attacked and murdered at worst. Nowadays, with republicanism an ever-growing force across the island, it is those who espouse the politics of the past, those who mouth bitter and poisonous bile, and those who fear to step boldly forward who are seen both at home and abroad as the impediment to peace. Those who hold the hunger strikers up as heroes and role models are saying that this is an island that is ours to share, where the old certainties have turned to dust, where the reactionary state and religious forces that had us in vice-like grip no longer hold sway and where we’re free to make our own choices and shape our own future.

Too many of us have painful and lasting memories of those dark days of 1981 when it seemed that we would never emerge from under the shroud of death and suffering that covered us all. Today, the IRA has departed the stage as a military force and some of those very republicans who shared cells with the hunger strikers, who were privy to their most intimate and personal utterances, who watched them die and who died a little bit with them, hold elected office, waiting for the inevitable day when the essential truth of the republican ideal can power and inform their words and actions in the political chamber. Those people have seen too much to be beaten or even diverted by the cynicism and fear which motivates so many of those who oppose them and who would spurn an historic political opportunity in favour of long years of enmity and suspicion.

In truth, it is not the shadow of the gunman which prompts unionist politicians, Irish establishment opportunists and faceless British manipulators to shy away from those who today espouse the same cause that the hunger strikers died for. It is a fear of having finally to come face to face with the courage and the spirit of 1981 – not on a ground of their choosing with their opponents naked in a fly-blown prison cell or dying on a hospital bed, but in a chamber of equals where the future of this island will be ultimately decided and where right will finally win the day.

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?