The Hunger Strike of 1981 – A Chronology of Main Events

CAIN

**excerpt

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Monday 20 April 1981
Three Irish TDs (Teachta Dáil; Members of the Irish Parliament) together with Owen Carron, then Bobby Sands’ election agent, paid a visit to the Maze Prison. Following a meeting with Sands the TDs called for urgent talks with the British government. [Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, announced on 21 April 1981 that the British government would not meet the TDs.]

Photo from Coiste: A Museum at Long Kesh or the Maze?

Tuesday 21 April 1981
Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, spoke to a press conference in Saudi Arabia and stated that the British government would not meet with Irish TDs (Teachta Dáil; Members of the Irish Parliament) to discuss the hunger strike. Thatcher went on to say: “We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime. Crime is crime is crime, it is not political.”

Thursday 23 April 1981
Marcella Sands, the sister of Bobby Sands, made an application to the European Commission on Human Rights claiming that the British government had broken three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights in their treatment of Republican prisoners. [Two Commissioners tried to visit Bobby Sands on 25 April 1981 but are unable to do so because Sands requested the presence of representatives of Sinn Féin (SF). On 4 May 1981 the European Commission on Human Rights announced that it had no power to proceed with the Sands’ case.]

Saturday 25 April 1981
Two Commissioners from the European Commission on Human Rights tried to visit Bobby Sands but are unable to do so because Sands requested the presence of representatives of Sinn Féin (SF). Sands had insisted that he would only meet the Commissioners if Brendan McFarlane, who had taken over as leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Maze Prison, and Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of SF, and Danny Morrison, then editor of An Phoblacht, were also allowed to attend the meeting. [On 4 May 1981 the European Commission on Human Rights announced that it had no power to proceed with the Sands’ case.]

Tuesday 28 April 1981
The private secretary of Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison but was unable to persuade him to end his hunger strike. Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that: “If Mr Sands persisted in his wish to commit suicide, that was his choice. The government would not force medical treatment upon him.” In the United States of America (USA) Ronald Reagan, then President of the USA, said that America would not intervene in the situation in Northern Ireland but he was “deeply concerned” at events there.

Wednesday 29 April 1981
The private secretary of Pope John Paul II held talks with Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, before paying another visit to Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison.

Monday 4 May 1981
The European Commission on Human Rights announced that it had no power to proceed with the case brought against the British government by Marcella Sands, the sister of Bobby Sands. [The case had been announced on 23 April 1981.]

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