The Blanket

Remember the Prisoners

Sean O Lubaigh • May 2003

 

May is the month of rebirth, optimism and rejuvenation. The starting of new life is abounding. The calves and lambs are born and little ducklings can be seen single filed behind their mother. May also represents the strength, fortitude and determination of the true Irish Republican Movement in the continuing fight for Irish freedom.

Twenty two years ago this May is the anniversary of the start of the deaths of the Ten H-Block hunger strikers who gave the ultimate sacrifice towards a free Ireland. After sixty-six days on hunger strike Bobby Sands drew his last breath on May 5th. Over the next months we would see O`Hara, Hughes, Devine and six more brave volunteers follow the painful path to martyrdom. Their names not to be forgotten. The Irish martyrs refused to give in to the Brit attempt at criminalizing the Republican struggle for national liberation as an unjust war. The POWs would never agree to the label of criminal. It would be the return of special category status or death, and ten dead there would be.

The Hunger Strikers are the continuing source of inspiration and gut level determination that Irish Republicans look towards today. Especially the current Irish POWs held behind bars by the Brits and their collaborators in Dublin. The irony for the current Freedom Fighters is that once again they are fighting for the special status that Sands, Devine and the others died for!

Under terms in the flawed and failing Good Friday Agreement of 1998, Irish Republicans who would be charged, convicted (non-jury courts) and jailed there after would once again be labeled as common criminals and be housed with drug addicts, rapists and loyalist murderers.

The “Great Betrayal” of current Irish POWs by the signers of the Good Friday Agreement, including the Provisional Movement, is having dire effects today. Attention must be shined upon the current untenable situation that the Irish prisoners now find themselves struggling against. The Irish Republicans are under continuous threat, harassment and intimidation by loyalist murderers and also find themselves out numbered 14 to 1 in some instances with in a wing. Murder attempts have been carried out numerous times resulting in men being scalded and beaten. Guard harassment is a never ending, intimidation of visitors is ongoing with demeaning acts as having to be sniffed and cleared for visit by a dog.

Most disturbing is the intimidation put on those who wish to raise funds for dependents of the prisoners by raffles, dances and dinners. Publicans have refused access to their pubs for those who would help the POWs in raising support. Why? Is it because we follow a different road than the Provisionals? Many who refuse to help were once behind the bars of prison themselves. Do the rank and file Provos truly want to turn their backs and pretend these Republicans deserve no less than what they would have received? The Irish patriots need support now more the ever in securing political status once again, that was stripped from them.

The Irish POWs have made clear their 4 demands which are; separation of Republicans from ordinary criminals and Loyalists, a wing or space of their own, right to appoint a spokesperson and recognition as a group. Without the brave men and woman Volunteers who are willing to forsake all in the name of Irish freedom and risk life and limb for the sake securing the dreams of 1916 the Republican Movement would dry and shrivel like the leaves of Autumn. Yet, with the coming of May we will again find the seeds of courage spouting from the death of the 10 brave Irish hunger strikers of twenty-two years past.

 

 

 

 

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