THE H-Block/Armagh Hunger Strike and the four-year-old `blanket protest' are now at crisis point; Hunger Striker Sean McKenna being in the worst condition of all the prisoners, with not long to live. Twenty-six year-old McKenna, from Newry, had completely lost his sight by Tuesday, his 51st day of fasting, and on Wednesday was unable to keep down the drinking water that barely kept him alive.
The end that is quickly approaching is tortuous and tragic, and it is an end which, although people were always aware of it being the possible outcome of republicans asserting their rights, is nonetheless shocking.
For as every minute ticks by with no movement from the Brits, the conclusion seems inevitable that the Brits - while continually conning many concerned Irish people and clerics into believing that they would resolve the prison crisis - had coolly decided, from the very start, that they would go to the brink and even over it.
The Brits have a mistaken view of the forces and sympathies behind the Hunger Strikers and other protesting prisoners. The Brits believe that they are dealing solely with republicans (and their supporters) and they mistakenly think that they are riding into a storm on a firm saddle.
Some of the Hunger Strikers may not emerge safely from that storm; but that will not have been their fault. They will have suffered and made the greatest sacrifices that they can; firstly of their freedom, and lastly of their lives, in their assertion that the fight for the freedom of their country is no criminal act - certainly not by Irish standards. And it is here that the Brits make their greatest mistake.
The response of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, on Wednesday, to the plea from Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich for her to personally intervene in the crisis was answered in a typically conceited English ruling middle class fashion. She claimed to have the universal support of the Irish people against the political status demand of the prisoners. She is also, apparently, dismissing the expressions of widespread concern from several continents, especially America, and the broad-based support for the prisoners in Ireland outside of republican circles.
Thatcher apparently believes, foolishly, that the national spirit has gone out of this Brit abused island. But what the Brits are sowing, by killing Sean McKenna, and his comrades, they will surely reap at the avenging hands of Irish men, women and youth.
Thirty join Hunger Strike
At the beginning of this week - in the face of continued British intransigence and brinkmanship - 30 H-Block `blanket men' joined their seven comrades in the Blocks, and three women comrades in Armagh jail, on hunger strike to the death for political status.
Those joining issued a statement, in which they said: ``The decision to increase the number of hunger-strikers was taken because of the serious condition of our seven comrades who are now entering the 50th day of their fast. Our decision was not taken lightly but given the fact that the British government has not moved, in any way, towards an honest and realistic resolution of this issue, we feel that there is no other course of action left open to us.
Phoblacht, 20 December 1980