**There are 2 other archived programs from previous years with about 4 hours of Irish rebel songs for your listening enjoyment.
Required: RealPlayer and a 28k Internet connection.
St. Patrick's Day 2004 Playlist
The Big Fellah by Black 47
Guard of Honour by Joanne Fegin and Paddywhack
Only Our Rivers Run Free by Éire Óg
The 10th Hunger Striker by Aisling McClelland and Paddywhack
Ten Brave Men by Éire Óg
Kevin Lynch by Aisling McClelland and Paddywhack
Marcella by Summerfly
Irish Hunger Strikes 1980 & '81
The First Weeks:
Bobby’s Final Birthday Party
Francis Hughes Joins the Hunger Strike
On February 28, 1981, Bobby Sands ate a small, bitter orange in a cold H-Block cell. It was the last morsel of food he would ever taste. That night he began writing a diary of his experience on hunger strike. "I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul," he wrote on a piece of toilet paper.
He also wrote on a cigarette paper the lyrics of a song he had written years ago while on remand and sent it on to a friend, Ricky O’Rawe, who had taken over as public relations officer for the republican prisoners. He called it "A Sad Song for Susan."
It ended like this: "And I wish I had you back again to when you were here/ Remember the Winter nights when you warmed me from the cold/ And the Spring when we walked through green fields and skies of gold/ You’re gone, you’re gone, but you live on in my memory."
It might very well have been written about himself and now he is only a memory. Perhaps he was saddened by his own loss of loved ones, a son and wife he hardly had the time to have anything like a normal life with, his sisters and brother, and his parents, as he faced an unknown eternity.
Support on the Falls
It was a cold Sunday on the Falls Road as well. Sinn Fein organized a march down the Falls to demonstrate support for the hunger strike. Four months earlier there had been 10,000 people showing their support for the first day of the first hunger strike. On this Sunday, there were perhaps thirty-five hundred demonstrators. The Movement would have to start all over again to publicize the plight of the men and gather support for the new hunger strike. But now it was ground minus zero. The people were distressed by the failure of the first hunger strike to move the Brits an inch towards the five demands and off of their criminalization policy. They were wearying from months of rallying around the H-Block/Armagh Committees and being harassed, beaten, arrested, shot, and even murdered for their activism. And they knew they had to get geared up to do it all again. On a cold, late winter Sunday in the north of Ireland, this wasn’t an easy thing.
That’s why Bobby knew for a fact he was going to die. He knew the mechanisms of popular support couldn’t be turned on without a blood sacrifice, much like the sacrifice of the men of 1916 was needed to open the eyes of the people of Ireland. He also knew the Brits needed a message that even they could not misunderstand.
In a little over two months, there would be 100,000 mourners following his coffin down the same Falls Road in West Belfast to Milltown cemetery.
The First Weeks
On Bobby’s 5th day on hunger strike a comm was sent out to the Movement: "Bobby’s weight today is 62 kg. His heart beat is 88 and blood pressure 112/70. He requested blankets. Said he felt the draft coming in the windows."
He was experiencing no side effects from the fast, except an unnatural craving for brown bread, butter, honey, and cheese. And naturally the screws came with heaps of steaming food three times a day to torture him. His cell mate, Malachy Carey, had a regular feast.
But by Friday of the first week he was feeling occasional bouts of energy loss. By Saturday, he had lost three kilograms.
On Monday, the 9th of March, he turned 27 years of age. He weighed 60 kgs.
"Comrade, how are ya? I’m still in the wing with the lads and how long that will last is uncertain. I’m feeling physically all right, I’ve no headaches or even minor medical complaints. There are I believe several tactics being deployed at present, foremost is I believe a deliberate policy of false disinterest that is ‘we couldn’t care less’ type of thing to make me feel small or insignificant and to try to create the impression in my mind that the hunger strike is merely confined to my cell," he put in a comm on his birthday.
"Let me or anyone else die..."
He sent out another comm on March 9th that showed how worried he was that an unacceptable deal would be struck to save his life, which had happened through deception and bad faith four months previously:
"As you know, I don’t care much to entering into any discussion on the topic of ‘negotiations’ of for that matter ‘settlements’ but what is worrying me is this: I’m afraid there is a possibility that at a crucial stage [which could be death] that Brits would move with a settlement and demand Index [prison chaplain Fr. Toner] as guarantor. Now this is feasible, if a man is dying, that they would try to force Bik to accept a settlement to save life which of course would be subject to [Fr. Toner’s] interpretation. And we know how far that would get us. It wouldn’t make any difference if it were he and Silvertop [ass’t chaplain Fr. Murphy], the same would occur. I’ve told Bik to let me or anyone else die before submitting to a play like that..."
Bik Faces An Unenviable Job
Bik McFarlane, the new OC, in essence commanding all the logistics and strategy for the hunger strike inside the prison, knew exactly what he had to do, although he wasn’t happy about it. In a panel discussion in Derry City in January, 2001, almost 20 years after the events of the hunger strike, he told a stilled audience how he went to Bobby asking him to select someone else to be prison OC. He told him how there were others more capable and closer to him on a personal level. Why not pick one of your friends? Bik wanted to know.
Bobby told him, "Because they won’t let me die." And Bik would have to.
A Final Birthday Party
That night, after the news from the various prison blocks was shouted across the wings and courtyard, including Bobby’s present weight and general health, D wing roared in unison and in Irish, "Happy birthday, Bobby!"
The celebration consisted mostly of a concert or "singsong" in Bobby’s honor, which featured several of Bobby’s own songs, "Back Home in Derry", sung my himself, and "McIlhatton" sung by Bik accompanied on the bodhran drum [rather, the steel cell door]. There was a whole evening of songs, requests, poems and whistled music.
On the 14th of March, Bobby weighed 58.25 kgs and his vital signs were normal. "The screws turned his cell lights on 3 times last night waking him on every occasion: 10 pm, 2 am, 6 am...," a smuggled out comm said.
He tried to write poetry, had plenty of ideas and thought it would help him face each day and ward off negative thoughts of the crisis days ahead, but he couldn’t. He was just too tired and he needed to conserve energy. He stopped his hunger strike diary after the 15th day.
The Man From Tamlaghtduff
On Sunday, the 15th of March, 1981, Bobby was joined on hunger strike by one of the greatest heroes of the conflict, Francis Hughes, of South Derry. He was captured after a intense fire fight with the SAS almost two years previously to the day. Francis lead the British army on a wild and bloody ride for years in his home land of South Derry that usually ended with Brit casualties and with Francis slipping through, around or behind hostile lines of soldiers. He was one with the hills. Taking in the odds never seemed to be part of his calculations when engaging the Brits. Sometimes he simply attacked whole squads arrayed to capture or kill him, turning an aggressive British operation into a full retreat. Francis Hughes was a legend. He was 23 years of age when he was captured; he was 25 when he died. Chisty Moore wrote a popular song about Francis, "The Boy From Tamlaghtduff":
Moving round the countryside he often made the news
But they could never lay their hands on my brave Francis Hughes.
Finally they wounded him and captured him at last.
From the countryside he loved, they took him to Belfast.
On from Musgrave Park to Crumlin Road and then to an H-Block cell,
He went straight on the blanket then, on hunger strike as well.
His will to win they could never break, no matter what they tried.
He fought them every day he lived and he fought them as he died...
'Shoot-to-kill' inquiries bid blocked
Legal moves aimed at forcing the government to conduct fresh
inquiries into alleged ''shoot-to-kill'' deaths at the hands of
security forces in Northern Ireland more than 20 years ago were
blocked by the House of Lords today.
Five Law Lords ruled that the government`s obligation under the Human
Rights Act to carry out ``effective and independent`` investigations
into killings by state agents did not apply to deaths which occurred
before the Act came into force in 2002.
The decision was a bitter blow for the families of nine men shot dead
by the RUC who have launched proceedings in the Northern Ireland
courts in the wake of a test case judgment by the European Court of
Human Rights condemning the initial investigations into one of the
deaths for their ``lack of independence and transparency``.
The test case was brought by Jonathan McKerr, whose father Gervaise
was one of three unarmed IRA men who died in a hail of bullets when
police fired 109 rounds at a car they were in near Lurgan, County
Armagh, in November 1982. The nine cases were awaiting the outcome of
The European court ordered the government to pay Mr McKerr £10,000
for the ``frustration, distress and anxiety`` caused by shortcomings
in the original investigations into his father`s death and the
The Government paid the money, but refused to order a fresh inquiry,
arguing that it would be near-impossible after a lapse of so many
years and that, in any event, the Human Rights Act could not be
applied to the case retrospectively.
In today`s judgment, the Law Lords unanimously allowed an appeal by
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy against a declaration won by
Mr McKerr in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to the effect that
the government had failed to carry out an investigation in compliance
with human rights law.
After the ruling, Sinn Fein reiterated its support for the McKerr
family and called for a full independent inquiry.
Sinn Fein`s John O`Dowd said: ``It is disgraceful that the McKerr
family will now be forced into further legal action. It is likely
that they will be forced to take this back to the European Court.
``The British government need to end their policy of concealment and
need to face up to the legacy left by the policy of state-sanctioned
and state-supported murder.``
Government minister in charge of race hate legislation bans asylum
seekers from his office
The north’s race-hate crisis was fuelled this week when it emerged that the English MP tasked with bringing hate crime legislation into Northern Ireland has banned asylum seekers from his own Birmingham constituency advice office.
Northern Ireland Office minister John Spellar's decision to refer immigrants to solicitors' offices or the Citizen Advice Bureau has been slammed by the Belfast Anti-Racism Network.
The revelation comes just days after South Belfast's race-hate issues reignited with the circulation of anti-Chinese literature in the Donegall Pass area.
The leaflets entitled 'Yellow Invasion' call on the Protestant people of Donegall Pass to "rid our community of these Chinese immigrants" and have been connected to loyalist paramilitaries.
It has also emerged that a UVF commander in the area has attended mediation meetings between the local community and representatives of the Chinese community.
The loyalist paramilitary has previously been linked to extortion rackets targeting ethnic communities in South Belfast.
With the fresh outbreak of race hate tensions in Belfast John Spellar's record on the vexed refugee question has come in for heavy criticism.
In February last year Mr Spellar defended banning asylum seekers stating he would only see people who have a legitimate right to be in Britain and whose names appear on the electoral register. Anti-Racism Network spokesman Davy Carlin branded the Labour MP a hypocrite and asked if he would be prosecuting himself under his own legislation.
"It's hypocritical for him to talk tough on racist crime when refusing to deal with the most vulnerable in society. Will the real John Spellar please stand up, and if not, will he be prosecuting himself under his new legislation, if and when it is ever passed?"
John Spellar's Old Warley constituency office refused to comment on the asylum-seeker ban.
The row surrounding the British minister comes after South Belfast’s Chinese community was again targeted by racists. The hate-filled leaflet distributed this week warned of a "yellow invasion" and urged locals to defend their area.
The leaflet was distributed at a meeting at Donegall Pass Community Centre earlier this month, which had been arranged to discuss proposals by the Chinese community to build a centre in the district.
PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said yesterday he believed loyalist paramilitaries were behind the distribution of the race-hate leaflets.
A police spokesperson also defended the PSNI's record in dealing with racist crime yesterday after they came under fire from ethnic leaders in the pages of this paper in February.
“Police have been working very closely with ethnic minority groups,” the spokesperson said. “There has been very good progress of late between all groups and we are disappointed by these latest events.”
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
REPUBLICANS WILL ALWAYS OPPOSE BRITISH RULE IN IRELAND
--Oration by Fergal Moore, Ard Chomhairle, at Seán Keenan Commemoration, Derry, March 8, 2004
A chairde, poblachtani agus muintir na Doire,
I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to speak here in Free Derry at this commemoration for one of its most stalwart and loyal sons Seán Keenan. Seán's Republican credentials were without peer. At the time of his death he was honourary vice president for life of Republican Sinn Féin. His father Séamus was Quarter Master of the Irish Republican Army here in Derry. No need to tell you that no weapons were handed over to the enemy and no guns were destroyed at their behest in his day. For the Keenans were true Republicans, loyal to the All Ireland Republic and constant foes of the regime in Stormont, the seat of British power in Ireland. Other citizens of Derry should take note; Republicans are opposed to British rule in Ireland whatever guise it takes.
We believe that the seizing and destruction of arms is a treasonable offence and that those that are party to it are traitors. These weapons were acquired by the Irish people to protect themselves from British aggression and to overthrow their rule here, not to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to update British rule. The Republican Movement cannot have any part in accepting British rule.
Seán Keenan was a member of the Republican Movement for sixty years. In this time he was imprisoned on three separate occasions for a total of fifteen years without ever standing trial. He was interned in Belfast and Derry, in Long Kesh and on the prison ships Al Rawdah and the Maidstone where my own father was held. Here Seán continued the fight for Irish freedom and was a member of the escape committee and was a mentor and father figure to the younger prisoners and volunteers.
Seán was not cowed or dismayed by Britain's treatment of him, rather he became more steadfast in his Republicanism and made preparations for when the next big push for Irish freedom would come. In 1969 he was chairman of the Derry Citizens Defence Association and organised the defence of nationalist Derry. Before long the Derry CDA was running the administration of an effective no-go area that became famous to the world as Free Derry.
How different things are now where once Britain's police force was not welcome in Derry, some of Seán's former comrades now welcome former RUC officers to join their organisation. The British police force in Ireland has never been acceptable to Republicans and never will be.
Free Derry was a beacon of hope to the beleaguered nationalist areas of the six counties. While it stood Britain would have restless nights. For Free Derry was dedicated to the All Ireland Republic. The Republican people of Derry, its young men and women were instructed and trained in the use of arms to defend their homes against the British Army and the RUC. In defending their homes they also defended the Republic and the interests of all Irish people.
These walls that look down upon us are a testament to Britain's attitude towards nationalist Ireland. Upon them sit guns that have pointed at nationalist Derry for three hundred years. Still today the new look RUC, the PSNI, sit up there pointing their guns. What Republican believes that the PSNI are any different from the RUC? They harass nationalists, they collude with Loyalists, but most importantly they enforce British rule at gunpoint. Only the name has been changed to protect the guilty. And the guilty ones are those who would con you into believing that anything has changed. The British still rule this part of Ireland, young Irish men still languish in British gaols because of them and pro-British paramilitaries still threaten, abduct, beat and kill those who dare oppose them.
Republicans will always oppose British rule in Ireland for we are revolutionaries who are dedicated to the re-establishment of the All Ireland Republic. Just as Seán Keenan and his family were. And just as Seán did we must make adequate preparations to continue the struggle against our enemy. If Ireland is to be free then Britain must be thrown out and Stormont overthrown. For that is the nature of revolution, complete change from top to bottom. Stormont will never elect to dismantle itself. Britain will not just up sticks and leave. Stormont must be torn down and Britain forced out. The revolution must continue until freedom is achieved.
Seán Keenan led the people of Derry in the struggle against British oppression. I ask the people of Derry to keep that line of continuity open. Turn away from the Provisionals and their acceptance of British rule. Instead join the Republican Movement just as Sean did. Every one of you has your own part to play in the struggle. There is a place for each of you in the Movement. Seán was a member of Republican Sinn Féin and of the Irish Republican Army. His son Colm was killed while on active service with the IRA here in Derry. His wife Nancy was a member of Cumann Na mBan. The youth of Derry should consider roles within Na Fianna Éireann, the Republican Scouts, for the scouts of today are the revolutionaries of tomorrow.
All of these organisations are a part of the Republican Movement. All of these organisations require your support. The Continuity IRA prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise require your support. There can be no revolution without the support of the Irish people. But so long as there is a body of people such as you here to support it the revolution must and will continue until Ireland is free.
An Phoblacht Abu!
Hume claims For 'Stormont Agreement' Are False
Vice President, Republican Sinn Féin
March 9, 2004
Hume claims For 'Stormont Agreement' Are False
John Hume's claim, carried in yesterday's Irish News (March 8) that the two state referenda of 1998 represents the first time that the Irish people as a whole voted to decide on their future, is completely false and runs counter to the facts of history. The 1918 general election, in which the Irish people voted overwhelmingly for a free and independent Ireland, remains the last true All - Ireland referendum.
In 1998 the people within the Six County area only were allowed to vote on the 'Stormont Agreement,' whilst the referendum which took place within the 26 County state was merely on amending articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 Constitution having no bearing whatsoever on the implementation or not of the 'Stormont Agreement' as was made clear by the then British Direct Ruler, Mo Mowlam."
"This of course was a travesty of All - Ireland democracy and a denial of the Irish people's right, free of British interference, to determine the future of their country. ÉIRE NUA with its proposals for the maximum devolution of power right down to regional, local and community level enshrines that right and provides the framework within which all of the Irish people can set about building a New Ireland."
**From the great Larkspirit site:
". . .The focus of this page will be the 'forgotten' hungerstrikes that have been overshadowed by the strikes of 1980 and 1981. This page will attempt to highlight most of the strikes that occurred between 1913 and 1999, with special mention of the early prison protests of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa in the 1850s, as well as the current (2003) dirty/no-wash campaigns in Maghaberry prison by republican prisoners."
**One such hunger striker listed is Michael Gaughan,
whose story is told on Ireland's OWN
"Michael Gaughan, the eldest of six children, was born in Ballina, Co Mayo. After finishing his schooling, he left Ireland for England, in search of work. Whilst in England, he joined the IRA and became an active Volunteer in a London-based ASU. During a fundraising mission, he was captured and ultimately convicted of arms possession and conspiracy to rob £530 from a London bank.
He was initially sent to Wormwood Scrubs, where he spent two years before being transferred to Albany Prison. In Albany, Gaughan requested political status. Prison officials responded to his request by placing him in a solitary punishment cell.
Eventually, he was transferred to Parkhurst prison where four of the Belfast Ten were on hungerstrike for political status. On March 31st, 1974, Michael Gaughan, along with Frank Stagg, Paul Holme, and Hugh Feeney, joined the strike.
British policy at this time was to force feed hungerstrikers in a particularly brutal manner: Six to eight guards would restrain the prisoner and drag him or her by the hair to the top of the bed, where they would stretch the prisoner's neck over the metal rail, force a block between his or her teeth and then pass a feeding tube, which extended down the throat, through a hole in the block.
The process would leave the prisoner bruised and battered. And, even on an unconscious individual, it carried the additional danger of the tube passing mistakenly into the trachea and the lungs rather than into the esophagus and stomach.
Michael Gaughan suffered this brutal procedure seventeen times in the course of his hungerstrike. The last time was on 2 June, the night before his death. On 3rd June, 1974, he died from injuries suffered when food lodged in a lung punctured by a feeding tube. He had been on hungerstrike 67 days. He was 24 years old.
Michael Gaughan left a final message for his comrades and his country:
'I die proudly for my country and in the hope that my death will be sufficient to obtain the demands of my comrades. Let there be no bitterness on my behalf, but a determination to achieve the new Ireland for which I gladly die. My loyalty and confidence is to the IRA and let those of you who are left carry on the work and finish the fight.' "
WHY WE WANT RECRUITS
--by Pádraic H. Pearse - May 1915
We want recruits because we have undertaken a service which we believe to be of vital importance to our country, and because that service needs whatever there is of manly stuff in Ireland in order to its effective rendering. We want recruits because we have a standard to rally them to. It is not a new standard raised for the first time by the men of a new generation. It is an old standard which has been borne by many generations of Irish men, which has gone into many battles, which has looked down upon much glory and upon much sorrow; which has been a sign to be contradicted, but which shall yet shine as a star. There is no other standard in the world so august as the standard we bear; and it is the only standard which the men of Ireland may bear without abandoning their ancient allegiance. Individual Irishmen have sometimes fought under other standards: Ireland as a whole has never fought under any other.
We want recruits because we have a faith to give them and a hope with which to inspire them. They are a faith and a hope which have been handed down from generation to generation of Irish men and women unto this last. The faith is that Ireland is one, that Ireland is inviolate, that Ireland is worthy of all love and all homage and all service that may lawfully be paid to any earthly thing; and the hope is that Ireland may be free. In a human sense, we have no desire, no ambition but the integrity, the honour, and the freedom of our native land.
We want recruits because we are sure of the rightness of our cause. We have no misgivings, no self-questionings. While others have been doubting, timorous, ill at ease, we have been serenely at peace with our consciences. The recent time of soul searching had no terrors for us. We saw our path with absolute clearness; we took it with absolute deliberateness. `We could do no other'. We called upon the names of the great confessors of our national faith, and all was well with us. Whatever soul-searchings there may be among Irish political parties now or hereafter, we go on in the calm certitude of having done the clear, clean, sheer thing. We have the strength and the peace of mind of those who never compromise.
We want recruits because we believe that events are about to place the destinies of Ireland definitely in our hands, and because we want as much help as possible to enable us to bear the burden. The political leadership of Ireland is passing to us---not, perhaps, to us as individuals, for none of us are ambitious for leadership and few of us fit for leadership; but to our party, to men of our way of thinking: that is, to the party and to the men that stand by Ireland only, to the party and to the men that stand by the nation, to the party and to the men of one allegiance.
We want recruits because we have work for them to do. We do not propose to keep our men idle. We propose to give them work---hard work, plenty of work. We would band together all men capable of working for Ireland and give them men's work.
We want recruits because we are able to train them. The great majority of our officers are now fully competent to undertake the training of Irish Volunteers for active service under the conditions imposed by the natural and military facts of the map of Ireland. Those officers who are not so competent will be made competent in our training camps during the next few months.
We want recruits because we are able to arm them. In a rough way of speaking, we have succeeded already in placing a gun and ammunition therefor in the hands of every Irish Volunteer that has undertaken to endeavour to pay for them. We are in a position to do as much for every man that joins us. We may not always have the popular pattern of gun, but we undertake to produce a gun of some sort for every genuine Irish Volunteer; with some ammunition to boot. Finally:
We want recruits because we are absolutely determined to take action the moment action becomes a duty. If a moment comes---as a moment seemed on the point of coming at least twice during the past eighteen months---when the Irish Volunteers will be justified to their consciences in taking definite military action, such action will be taken. We do not anticipate such a moment in the very near future; but we live at a time when it may come swiftly and terribly. What if Conscription be forced upon Ireland? What if a Unionist or a Coalition British Ministry repudiate the Home Rule Act? What if it be determined to dismember Ireland? What if it be attempted to disarm Ireland? The future is big with these and other possibilities.
And these are among the reasons why we want recruits.
BLAIR'S PLAN B IS STIFLING OUR POLITICS
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting some Northern Irish students.
As always they were impressive. Anyone would feel good that we
produce such talent and commitment. All of them felt that their
parents and teachers had done them proud and they would like, if they
could, to give something back to the country that had educated them.
Might they therefore join a political party and play their part in the shaping of the future of the country? The look of horror on their faces as this question was posed would have been comical were it not so worrying.
Now I'm not naive. I know that while some young people are fascinated by politics, as a general rule 20-year-olds believe there are more important things in life, and so it should be. The unsettling thing for me though was their horror that at any stage they might consider politics. With the exception of one young woman who already is a member of a political party, all asked what party could they possibly join?
The long and the short of it was that these young students were
convinced that politicians, political parties and the political
process was a no-hope game in Northern Ireland, and that they would
be tainted by any association with it. The political process is dead,
long live politics.
Most of them, as they mature and have children and start to think
about issues around health and education, will begin to realise that
political processes are not optional extras, and that politics is
literally about the air that we breathe.
Many of them will become totally disillusioned and take their talents
and brains elsewhere. Unless that is, we, their elders urgently
commit to making the political processes work. While I was filled
with admiration for these personable young people, I also felt sad
for them. When I was their age my fellow students and I also would
have been cynical about political processes and politics.
But we had hope then. We had anger, and most importantly, a burning
desire to change things. We marched. We sat on roads. We had fiery
and inspiring debates.
This new generation does not have these options.
We have been through turmoil for 30 years and every conceivable
approach to political reconciliation seems to be failing. No wonder
they have no hope.
Everything they could possibly do has already been tried.
There is no doubt that life has improved here. A benign or perhaps
guilt-ridden British government, a committed Europe and an emotional
America, have supported us to establish a more equitable society in
their hope and belief that by doing so we could establish some form
of participative democracy and learn to govern ourselves.
The positive impact of this care and attention has been to improve
the lot of those most in need of and desirous of change to the extent
that the burning sense of injustice has gone.
The danger is that the thirst for self-government may also have
dissipated. Having lived through great upheaval, we now seem to be
prepared to tolerate continued direct rule indefinitely.
Tony Blair constantly talked about there being no Plan B – that the
Good Friday Agreement was the only plan. I do not doubt his good
intentions about Northern Ireland, but he is wrong about there being
no Plan B. We are living in Plan B – benign dictatorship from
Westminster which looks like it will and can continue long term.
As Scotland, Wales, and then England develop separate and distinct
democratic entities, our absence of real democratic processes will
become starker and more obvious.
The great principle of governance – no taxation without
representation – is in danger of being lightly cast aside in Northern
Maybe for a short time the essential services, including the air that
we breathe, will continue to work better under British ministers who
have no electoral mandate from the country in which they take their
In the long term, how can a divided country thrive and prosper when
its future generation is so disgusted with the lack of political
progress that they won't have a politician about the place?
There is a growing realisation and fear amongst nationalists that
Plan B – direct rule with its corrosive effect on self-identity, its
negative impact on inclusivity in political decisions – suits
unionists very well. Anything is preferable to sharing power with
If there is any truth in this assumption, the young students are
right to be disgusted.
They also should be very worried.
March 10, 2004
Happy birthday, Bobby
Bobby Sands could have stepped aside. Nobody made him do it. He could have stopped at any time. He could have succumbed to fear of the unknown, the fear of death. He could have placed the possibilities of a future life before the realities of his present existence.
But he didn’t.
From his writings it is apparent that he believed every other alternative had been exhausted. He simply had to do it.
If he had simply stopped or walked away or turned his back, then he could well have been celebrating his fiftieth birthday tomorrow, Tuesday, March 9. Instead, after spending most of his adult life either interned in the Cages or on the blanket in the H-Blocks, the twenty-seven year old died following a hunger strike that lasted sixty-six days, on May 5, 1981.
Nine comrades followed him to death. Many more also embarked on the hunger strike and some – like Pat McGeown – died prematurely from the after-effects of the protest.
In basic terms, Bobby Sands had been protesting that he and his comrades should receive the same political status while imprisoned in the H-Blocks that they had been accorded while imprisoned in the Cages.
At the stroke of a pen, after March 1, 1976, the British government attempted to label anyone convicted of a conflict-related offence from that date onwards as an ‘ordinary criminal’. In real terms, however, the British government turned the issue into a battle of life and death.
And while Bobby Sands and nine others lost their lives, historians now agree that Margaret Thatcher and her government lost the battle. For weeks afterwards, the death of Bobby Sands had an immense international impact.
All British ships were boycotted at US ports for twenty fours hours by the Longshoremen’s Union. Members of the Portuguese parliament held a minute’s silence in his memory. A street was named after him in Tehran.
Protest demonstrations were held across the world – from Milan to Chicago, from Oslo to Brisbane. His face appeared on the cover of newspapers across every continent of the globe and he became a symbol of power for oppressed people everywhere.
However, despite all the iconography associated with Bobby Sands, it is sometimes forgotten that he was also a son, a brother, a father and a friend. One of those who knew him best as a comrade in the Cages and the H-Blocks is Seanna Walsh.
“I first met Bobby in January 1973 when we were in the same Cage and he had that cocky Belfast dander and a Rod Stewart haircut.
“Back then in jail, birthdays weren’t really a big thing – they were more a family thing and the only way you might have known it was someone’s birthday was when they got a clatter of cards from their family.
“I know Bobby’s family will be feeling it very much tomorrow and it will be hard for them.
“Having said that, it is an opportunity for Bobby’s wider family of republican comrades to give thought to it as well,” said Seanna.
Describing Bobby Sands as a “mate who enjoyed a bit of craic and slagging”, Seanna joked that he was “the only person inside to support Aston Villa – God help him”.
Pointing out that many families go through the same experience of remembering the birthdays of deceased loved ones, Seanna said: “It would have been Joe McDonnell’s fiftieth birthday four years ago, but Bobby – probably because he was the first to die – has become this larger than life figure and tends to stick out more.
“There is one thing I can’t get into and it is this: in terms of where Bobby would stand in relation to the current political situation, I simply don’t know. Nobody does.
“Sometimes comrades who disagree with things ask me what Bobby would think. The answer is, we just don’t know and I would never try to misrepresent him.
“All I know is that the role I am playing in the struggle is part and parcel of the same struggle that Bobby died for, and those of us engaged in that freedom struggle are determined to continue,” said Seanna.
Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney
Reference Guide to Provisional IRA Attacks on Republicans, 1998-2004
List complied by the Irish Freedom Committee and the Blanket • March 1, 2004
RUC members seek compensation over Hamill murder
Two RUC members who were on duty in a Land Rover when Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill was attacked by a 30-strong gang of loyalists in 1997, are seeking compensation from the NIO for injuries they claim to have suffered on the night.
The two RUC members were among the crew in the vehicle in Portadown town centre on 27 April 1997 and who FAILED TO ACT during the assault on Hamill, which saw the 25-year-old father of two fatally wounded. Hamill never regained consciousness and died 12 days later, on 8 May, in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.
It has now emerged that the pair, one of whom has since left the PSNI, are seeking damages for injuries they claim they received during the events of that night. The specific nature of the claims may be made public when they go before the courts in the coming weeks.
Six men were originally charged with the Hamill murder, however these charges were later dropped. One of the six was later convicted of the lesser charge of causing an affray and was freed from prison in 1999. That same year, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ruled that RUC members on duty that night would not face any charges.
**Posted on the board by Joy
The volunteer is not a song nor poem but spoken word , written by Gerry O'Glacain, Irish Brigade.
The gunfire split the still night air,
and from my side the blood flowed red.
Informer's work had been well done; an ambush had been laid.
My comrades turned back to my aid. I waved them on again.
Escape for me was hopeless. Why should they die in vain?
The soldiers soon around me stood. Their unit I could guess.
Their blackened faces could not disguise the hated SAS.
"Finish him off." I heard one say as a gun moved toward my head.
"Tomorrow they'll all sing about another fenian dead."
"Just drop those guns down gently," a voice came from the dark.
They wheeled and fired a volley, but it seemed they missed their mark.
The stranger stood before them now with eyes that seemed alight.
The cowards turned and quickly fled as he raised his armalite.
His face somewhere I'd seen before, but I couldn't tell just where,
but I knew from his green battledress he was a volunteer.
He never said a word to me as we moved off through the night.
I was hoisted 'cross his shoulders, a burden which seemed light.
"You'll be safe here," at last he said , as a cottage door drew near.
"They're friends of mine, though we haven't met for many a lonely year.
He laid me gently down beside a wall of slate and stone.
I turned to thank my comrade brave, but found I was alone.
When next I woke, I found myself with a family staunch and true.
I told them of my comrade strange, but it seemed they already knew.
I gazed upon that parlour wall and things came clear at last,
and I thought of songs and stories heard often in the past,
and I knew then that our struggle was a fight we could not lose
for beneath his picture there I read " IN MEMORY OF FRANCIS HUGHES."