21 years on

Impartial Reporter

Memorial to Bobby Sands, 21 years on

Vandals defaced the granite memorial to hunger striker Bobby Sands with paint prior to its official unveiling in Enniskillen at the weekend.

In the hours before Fermanagh/south Tyrone MP Ms. Michelle Gildernew unveiled the monument, the paint was successfully removed from the engraved granite structure which stands at the Paupers’ Graveyard in Cornagrade, in the shadow of a sculpture erected to remember the victims of the famine.

Before the unveiling ceremony, hundreds of people took part in a parade which left Kilmacormick at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. It continued into town along Queen Street and Darling Street before returning to the Paupers’ Graveyard for the ceremony. The Mountain Road Pipe Band and Strabane Memorial Flute Band were part of the procession. The Sands family did not attend.

The event was organised by the Tom Flatley Sinn Fein cumann to mark the 21st anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death.

Bobby Sands was an icon for people locally, Councillor Gerry McHugh MLA told the assembled crowd. “Such was the feeling about Bobby Sands and his connection with Fermanagh/south Tyrone at the time the locals wanted to create some sort of tribute to him,” he said.

Looking back at his election as MP for the area, he said: “It was the start of the electoral process for Sinn Fein in this particular phase. Election gains at that particular time pointed there were political gains to be made from taking part in an election”.

He spoke about the Twinbrook man as a “son, husband and father”.

The Fermanagh MLA told the gathering of a letter he had received from Bobby Sands on his second week on hunger strike. “He wrote to me telling me that he had put on a fine and hopeful face to those around him on the wing, to his clan on visits. But he told me he had no intention of trying to pretend anything to me. He was determined to do what he had done and he knew that the British would show no mercy. Yet he was confident that by his actions his comrades coming behind, and a whole generation of young still unborn, would be so inspired as to ensure his goal, his dream, his Aisling would become a reality,” he said.

The event on Sunday gave people the opportunity to reminisce about the events of 1980 to 1981, said Councillor Pat Cox, who was involved in the Bobby Sands election campaign. He recalled that the entire campaign was run out of the front room of a house on Water Street in Enniskillen. “The people were afraid of intimidation . . the people translated their fears into votes,” Councillor Cox said.

Fermanagh/south Tyrone MP Ms. Michelle Gildernew spoke of Sinn Fein’s electoral successes in more recent times, in particular the General election in the Republic. “I am honoured to speak at the unveiling of this memorial to Volunteer Bobby Sands MP who sacrificed his life that we, and the future generations, could live in an Ireland of equals, free from foreign rule.

“21 years ago Bobby Sands and his comrades in Long Kesh were denounced by the British Government as criminals involved in some kind of conspiracy; however, the people of Fermanagh/south-Tyrone sent a clear message to Margaret Thatcher by electing Bobby as their MP with almost 30,000 votes. The people of this constituency played a huge role, in not only defeating the British Government policy of criminalisation of the Republican struggle, but also brought about the electoral successes we witnessed last week in the 26 county elections. Who could have imagined 21 years on, that Sinn Fein would have the support of almost 300,000 voters. I am confident that this generation of republicans will see the freedom the Bobby Sands and his comrades laid down their lives for,” she said


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