Hunger strike commemorations continue

BN.ie

06/05/2006 – 13:43:34

Commemorations to mark the 25th anniversary of the IRA hunger strike are continuing across the North today.

Family and friends of the 10 men who died in the Maze Prison will lay a wreath in the grounds of Roddy McCorley’s Social Club in west Belfast.

Afterwards Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will pay tribute to the republican prisoners who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Events were held on both sides of the Irish border yesterday to remember IRA icon Bobby Sands who died after 66 days without food on May 5, 1981.

The legacy of the hunger strikers will toda also be the focus of a panel discussion at the Balmoral Hotel.

The debate will feature John Finucane, whose solicitor father Pat was killed by loyalists, Ulster Unionist Chris McGimpsey and Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the Shankill bombing.

Tonight republican activists from the 1980/81 period will talk about their experiences at the Andersonstown Social Club.

Mr Adams yesterday said Sinn Fein’s current electoral strength was in no small measure helped by the hunger strikers.

The West Belfast MP laid a wreath to Bobby Sands, who won a House of Commons seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone a month before his death, at a republican memorial at Hackballscross, Co Louth.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness also hailed the legacy of Bobby Sands as he attended a private ceremony in the hospital wing of the Maze Prison.

He was joined by Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, the IRA’s OC (Officer Commanding) in the Maze Prison at the time of the hunger strike, for an occasion the Mid Ulster MP described as sad and poignant.

Mr McFarlane defended the hunger strikers and praised their achievements.

He said: “The republican struggle is not a criminal conspiracy.

“I also feel that it is important that a new generation hear the story of th prison protest and understand the circumstances which brought about that terrible summer of 1981 and the deaths of 10 courageous republican volunteers in this prison.”

He also criticised then prime minister Magaret Thatcher, claiming her international reputation was forever tarnished, adding: “Bobby Sands and his comrades are remembered as icons of the freedom struggle in Ireland and indeed across the world.

“I think that that says much about the legacy of 1981.”

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