Adams launches year of Hunger Strike commemorations
Accompanied by former H Block OCs and former hunger strikers, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams last week launched a yearlong series of events to commemorate the H Block and Armagh hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.
Bik McFarlane, H Block OC during the second Hunger Strike, joined Raymond McCartney and Mary Doyle who were on hunger strike in 1980, alongside Adams as he described the political conditions from 1976 on that eventually lead to the deaths of ten republican hunger strikers in Long Kesh. Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Crowe chaired the event.
Said Adams: ``From 1976 through to the end of the 1981, hunger strike republican prisoners in Armagh and Long Kesh endured some of the most inhuman and barbaric conditions in modern history. They lead the battle against the British government's policy of criminalisation - their attempt to hide their role in the war in our country.
``The British government believed that by attacking the prisoners they could criminalise the republican struggle. What they did not count on was the strength and the bravery of the republican prisoners.
``1980 saw the first of two hunger strikes, which by October 1981 had left ten prisoners dead. Nor should we forget the many who died outside the prisons, particularly those children killed by plastic bullets''.
Adams was speaking to the press on the morning after the IRA announced moves to allow international inspectors to inspect some of its arms dumps as a boost to the peace process. The Sinn Féin President pointed out that the lessons of the hunger strike have become ``guiding principles'' in everything we do.
``Change did not come easily or quickly at that time and as we are witnessing today it requires a long and determined struggle in which all people can play a part''.
The Sinn Féin president called on ``all sectors of Irish society to get involved, not just to remember the hunger strikers but to talk, to discuss to debate and to learn the lessons of that period and to build them into further advances for the freedom struggle''. Adams encouraged grassroots republicans to set up 1981 committees all over the country to organise and co-ordinate events.
Pointing up the long term needs and objectives of the project, Adams said that as well as celebrating the lives of the hunger strikers and remembering them, the coming year's events need to educate young people, document our history and develop the political legacy of the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.