Irish Republican News · March 16, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: The Diary of Bobby Sands (part 2)
The Diary of Bobby Sands (part 2)
For the first seventeen days of his hunger-strike 25 years ago this week, Bobby Sands kept a secret diary in which he wrote his thoughts and views.

The following is his writings for the last eight days. It is extracted from ‘Skylark Sing your Lonely Song: An Anthology of the Writings of Bobby Sands.

 

Tuesday 10th

It has been a fairly normal day in my present circumstances. My weight is 59. 3 kgs. and I have no medical problems. I have seen some birthday greetings from relatives and friends in yesterday’s paper which I got today. Also I received a bag of toiletries today.

There is no priest in tonight, but the chief medical officer dropped in, took my pulse, and left. I suppose that makes him feel pretty important.

From what I have read in the newspapers I am becoming increasingly worried and wary of the fact that there could quite well be an attempt at a later date to pull the carpet from under our feet and undermine us -- if not defeat this hunger-strike -- with the concession bid in the form of ‘our own clothes as a right’.

This, of course, would solve nothing. But if allowed birth could, with the voice of the Catholic hierarchy, seriously damage our position. It is my opinion that under no circumstances do they wish to see the prisoners gain political status, or facilities that resemble, or afford us with the contents of, political status.

The reasons for this are many and varied, primarily motivated by the wish to see the revolutionary struggle of the people brought to an end. The criminalisation of Republican prisoners would help to furnish this end.

It is the declared wish of these people to see humane and better conditions in these Blocks. But the issue at stake is not ‘humanitarian’, nor about better or improved living conditions. It is purely political and only a political solution will solve it. This in no way makes us prisoners elite nor do we (nor have we at any time) purport to be elite.

We wish to be treated ‘not as ordinary prisoners’ for we are not criminals. We admit no crime unless, that is, the love of one’s people and country is a crime.

Would Englishmen allow Germans to occupy their nation or Frenchmen allow Dutchmen to do likewise? We Republican prisoners understand better than anyone the plight of all prisoners who are deprived of their liberty. We do not deny ordinary prisoners the benefit of anything that we gain that may improve and make easier their plight. Indeed, in the past, all prisoners have gained from the resistance of Republican jail struggles.

I recall the Fenians and Tom Clarke, who indeed were most instrumental in highlighting by their unflinching resistance the ‘terrible silent system’ in the Victorian period in English prisons. In every decade there has been ample evidence of such gains to all prisoners due to Republican prisoners’ resistance.

Unfortunately, the years, the decades, and centuries, have not seen an end to Republican resistance in English hell-holes, because the struggle in the prisons goes hand-in-hand with the continuous freedom struggle in Ireland. Many Irishmen have given their lives in pursuit of this freedom and I know that more will, myself included, until such times as that freedom is achieved.

I am still awaiting some sort of move from my cell to an empty wing and total isolation. The last strikers were ten days in the wings with the boys, before they were moved. But then they were on the no-wash protest and in filthy cells. My cell is far from clean but tolerable. The water is always cold. I can’t risk the chance of cold or ‘flu. It is six days since I’ve had a bath, perhaps longer. No matter.

Tomorrow is the eleventh day and there is a long way to go. Someone should write a poem of the tribulations of a hunger-striker. I would like to, but how could I finish it.

Caithfidh me a dul mar ta tuirseach ag eiri ormsa.

(Translated, this reads as follows):

Must go as I’m getting tired.

Wednesday 11th

I received a large amount of birthday cards today. Some from people I do not know. In particular a Mass bouquet with fifty Masses on it from Mrs Burns from Sevastopol Street. We all know of her, she never forgets us and we shan’t forget her, bless her dear heart.

I also received a card from reporter Brendan O Cathaoir, which indeed was thoughtful. I received a letter from a friend, and from a student in America whom I don’t know, but again it’s good to know that people are thinking of you. There were some smuggled letters as well from my friends and comrades.

I am the same weight today and have no complaints medically. Now and again I am struck by the natural desire to eat but the desire to see an end to my comrades’ plight and the liberation of my people is overwhelmingly greater.

The doctor will be taking a blood test tomorrow. It seems that Dr Ross has disappeared and Dr Emerson is back...

Again, there has been nothing outstanding today except that I took a bath this morning. I have also been thinking of my family and hoping that they are not suffering too much.

I was trying to piece together a quote from James Connolly today which I’m ashamed that I did not succeed in doing but I’ll paraphrase the meagre few lines I can remember.

They go something like this: a man who is bubbling over with enthusiasm (or patriotism) for his country, who walks through the streets among his people, their degradation, poverty, and suffering, and who (for want of the right words) does nothing, is, in my mind, a fraud; for Ireland distinct from its people is but a mass of chemical elements.

Perhaps the stark poverty of Dublin in 1913 does not exist today, but then again, in modern day comparison to living standards in other places through the world, it could indeed be said to be the same if not worse both North and South. Indeed, one thing has not changed, that is the economic, cultural and physical oppression of the same Irish people...

Even should there not be 100,000 unemployed in the North, their pittance of a wage would look shame in the company of those whose wage and profit is enormous, the privileged and capitalist class who sleep upon the people’s wounds, and sweat, and toils.

Total equality and fraternity cannot and never will be gained whilst these parasites dominate and rule the lives of a nation. There is no equality in a society that stands upon the economic and political bog if only the strongest make it good or survive. Compare the lives, comforts, habits, wealth of all those political conmen (who allegedly are concerned for us, the people) with that of the wretchedly deprived and oppressed.

Compare it in any decade in history, compare it tomorrow, in the future, and it will mock you. Yet our perennial blindness continues. There are no luxuries in the H-Blocks. But there is true concern for the Irish people.

Thursday 12th

Fr Toner was in tonight, and brought me in some religious magazines.

My weight is 58.75 kgs. They did not take a blood sample because they want to incorporate other tests with it. So the doctor says they’ll do it next week.

Physically I have felt very tired today, between dinner time and later afternoon. I know I’m getting physically weaker. It is only to be expected. But I’m okay. I’m still getting the papers all right, but there’s nothing heartening in them. But again I expect that also and therefore I must depend entirely upon my own heart and resolve, which I will do.

I received three notes from the comrades in Armagh, God bless them again.

I heard of today’s announcement that Frank Hughes will be joining me on hunger-strike on Sunday. I have the greatest respect, admiration and confidence in Frank and I know that I am not alone. How could I ever be with comrades like those around me, in Armagh and outside.

I’ve been thinking of the comrades in Portlaoise, the visiting facilities there are inhuman. No doubt that hell-hole will also eventually explode in due time. I hope not, but Haughey’s compassion for the prisoners down there is no different from that of the Brits towards prisoners in the North and in English gaols.

I have come to understand, and with each passing day I understand increasingly more and in the most sad way, that awful fate and torture endured to the very bitter end by Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan. Perhaps, -- indeed yes! -- I am more fortunate because those poor comrades were without comrades or a friendly face. They had not even the final consolation of dying in their own land. Irishmen alone and at the unmerciful ugly hands of a vindictive heartless enemy. Dear God, but I am so lucky in comparison.

I have poems in my mind, mediocre no doubt, poems of hunger strike and MacSwiney, and everything that this hunger-strike has stirred up in my heart and in my mind, but the weariness is slowly creeping in, and my heart is willing but my body wants to be lazy, so I have decided to mass all my energy and thoughts into consolidating my resistance.

That is most important. Nothing else seems to matter except that lingering constant reminding thought, ‘Never give up’. No matter how bad, how black, how painful, how heart-breaking, ‘Never give up’, ‘Never despair’, ‘Never lose hope’. Let them bastards laugh at you all they want, let them grin and jibe, allow them to persist in their humiliation, brutality, deprivations, vindictiveness, petty harassments, let them laugh now, because all of that is no longer important or worth a response.

I am making my last response to the whole vicious inhuman atrocity they call H-Block. But, unlike their laughs and jibes, our laughter will be the joy of victory and the joy of the people, our revenge will be the liberation of all and the final defeat of the oppressors of our aged nation.

Friday 13th

I’m not superstitious, and it was an uneventful day today. I feel all right, and my weight is 58.5 kgs.

I was not so tired today, but my back gets sore now and again sitting in the bed. I didn’t get the Irish News, which makes me think there is probably something in it that they don’t wish me to see, but who cares. Fr Murphy was in tonight for a few minutes.

The Screws had a quick look around my cell today when I was out getting water. They are always snooping. I heard reports of men beaten up during a wing shift ...

Nothing changes here.

Sean McKenna (the former hunger-striker) is back in H-4, apparently still a bit shaky but alive and still recovering, and hopefully he will do so to the full.

Mhuscail me leis an gealbhain ar maidin agus an t-aon smaointe amhain i mo cheann - seo chugat la eile a Roibeard. Cuireann e sin amhran a scriobh me; bhfad o shin i nduil domsa.

Seo e cib e ar bith.

D’ eirigh me ar maidin mar a thainig an coimheadoir, Bhuail se mo dhoras go trom’s gan labhairt. Dhearc me ar na ballai, ‘S shil me nach raibh me beo, Tchitear nach n-imeoidh an t-iffrean seo go deo. D’oscail an doras ‘s nior druideadh e go ciuin, Ach ba chuma ar bith mar nach raibheamar inar suan. Chuala me ean ‘s ni fhaca me geal an lae, Is mian mor liom go raibh me go doimhin foai, Ca bhfuil mo smaointi ar laethe a chuaigh romhainn, S ca bhfuil an tsaol a smaoin me abhi sa domhain, Ni chluintear mo bheic, ‘s ni fheictear mar a rith mo dheor, Nuair a thigeann ar la aithiocfaidh me iad go mor. Canaim e sin leis an phort Siun Ni Dhuibir.

[Translated this reads as follows:

I awoke with the sparrows this morning and the only thought in my head was: here comes another day, Bobby -- reminding me of a song I once wrote a long time ago.

This is it anyway:

I arose this morning as the Screw came, He thumped my door heavily without speaking, I stared at the walls, and thought I was dead, It seems that this hell will never depart. The door opened and it wasn’t closed gently, But it didn’t really matter, we weren’t asleep. I heard a bird and yet didn’t see the dawn of day, Would that I were deep in the earth. Where are my thoughts of days gone by, And where is the life I once thought was in the world. My cry is unheard and my tears flowing unseen, When our day comes I shall repay them dearly. I sing this to the tune Siun Ni Dhuibir.]

Bhi na heinini ag ceiliuracht inniu. Chaith ceann de na buachailli aran amach as an fhuinneog, ar a leghad bhi duine eigin ag ithe. Uaigneach abhi me ar feadh tamaill ar trathnona beag inniu ag eisteacht leis na preachain ag screadail agus ag teacht abhaile daobhtha. Da gcluinfinn an fhuiseog alainn, brisfeadh si mo chroi.

Anois mar a scriobhaim ta an corrcrothar ag caoineadh mar a theann siad tharam. Is maith liom na heinini.

Bhuel caithfidh me a dul mar ma scriobhain nios mo ar na heinini seo beidh mo dheora ag rith ‘s rachaidh mo smaointi ar ais chuig, an t-am nuair abhi me oganach, b’iad na laennta agus iad imithe go deo anois, ach thaitin siad liom agus ar a laghad nil dearmad deanta agam orthu, ta siad i mo chroi -- oiche mhaith anois.

[Translated, this reads as follows:

The birds were singing today. One of the boys threw bread out of the window. At least somebody was eating!

I was lonely for a while this evening, listening to the crows caw as they returned home. Should I hear the beautiful lark, she would rent my heart. Now, as I write, the odd curlew mournfully calls as they fly over. I like the birds.

Well, I must leave off, for if I write more about the birds my tears will fall and my thoughts return to the days of my youth.

They were the days, and gone forever now. But I enjoyed them. They are in my heart -- good night, now.]

Saturday 14th

Again, another uneventful somewhat boring day. My weight is 58.25 kgs, and no medical complaints. I read the papers, which are full of trash.

Tonight’s tea was pie and beans, and although hunger may fuel my imagination (it looked a powerful-sized meal), I don’t exaggerate: the beans were nearly falling off the plate. If I said this all the time to the lads, they would worry about me, but I’m all right.

It was inviting (I’m human too) and I was glad to see it leave the cell. Never would I have touched it, but it was a starving nuisance. Ha! My God, if it had have attacked, I’d have fled.

I was going to write about a few things I had in my head but they’ll wait. I am looking forward to the brief company of all the lads at Mass tomorrow. You never know when it could be the last time that you may ever see them again.

I smoked some cigarettes today. We still defeat them in this sphere. If the Screws only knew the half of it; the ingenuity of the POW is something amazing. The worse the situation the greater the ingenuity. Someday it may all be revealed.

On a personal note, Liam Og (the pseudonym for Bobby Sands’ Republican Movement contact on the outside), I just thought I’d take this opportunity tonight of saying to your good hard-working self that I admire you all out there and the unselfish work that you all do and have done in the past, not just for the H-Blocks and Armagh, but for the struggle in general.

I have always taken a lesson from something that was told me by a sound man, that is, that everyone, Republican or otherwise, has his own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small, no one is too old or too young to do something.

There is that much to be done that no select or small portion of people can do, only the greater mass of the Irish nation will ensure the achievement of the Socialist Republic, and that can only be done by hard work and sacrifice.

So, mo chara, for what it’s worth, I would like to thank you all for what you have done and I hope many others follow your example, and I’m deeply proud to have known you all and prouder still to call you comrades and friends.

On a closing note, I’ve noticed the Screws have been really slamming the cell doors today, in particular my own. Perhaps a good indication of the mentality of these people, always vindictive, always full of hate. I’m glad to say that I am not like that.

Well, I must go to rest up as I found it tiring trying to comb my hair today after a bath.

So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin la eigin. Sealadaigh abu.

[Translated, this reads as follows:

So venceremos, we will be victorious someday. Up the Provos.]

Sunday 15th

Frank has now joined me on the hunger-strike. I saw the boys at Mass today which I enjoyed. Fr Toner said Mass.

Again it was a pretty boring day. I had a bit of trouble to get slopped out tonight and to get water.

I have a visit tomorrow and it will be good to see my family. I am also looking forward to the walk in the fresh air, it will tire me out, but I hope the weather is good. I must go.

Monday 16th

I had a wonderful visit today with my mother, father and Marcella. Wonderful, considering the circumstances and the strain which indeed they are surely under.

As I expected, I received a lot of verbal flak from Screws going and coming from the actual visit. Their warped sense of humour was evident in their childish taunts, etcetera.

I wrapped myself up well to keep me from the cold. My weight is 58.25 kgs today, but I burnt up more energy today with the visit. I’ve no complaints of any nature.

I’ve noticed the orderlies are substituting slices of bread for bits of cake, etcetera -- stealing the sweet things (which are rare anyway) for themselves. I don’t know whether it’s a case of ‘How low can you get?’ or ‘Well, could you blame them?’ But they take their choice and fill of the food always, so it’s the former.

They left my supper in tonight when the priest (Fr Murphy) was in. There were two bites out of the small doughy bun. I ask you!

I got the Sunday World newspaper; papers have been scarce for the past few days.

There is a certain Screw here who has taken it upon himself to harass me to the very end and in a very vindictive childish manner. It does not worry me, the harassment, but his attitude aggravates me occasionally. It is one thing to torture, but quite a different thing to exact enjoyment from it, that’s his type.

There was no mirror search going out to visits today -- a pleasant change. Apparently, with the ending of the no-wash protest, the mercenary Screws have lost all their mercenary bonuses, etcetera, notwithstanding that they are also losing overtime and so on. So, not to be outdone, they aren’t going to carry out the mirror search any more, and its accompanying brutality, degradation, humiliation, etcetera.

Why! Because they aren’t being paid for it!

I’m continually wrapped up in blankets, but find it hard to keep my feet warm. It doesn’t help my body temperature, drinking pints of cold water. I’m still able to take the salt and five or six pints of water per day without too much discomfort.

The books that are available to me are trash. I’m going to ask for a dictionary tomorrow. I’d just sit and flick through that and learn, much more preferable to reading rubbish.

The English rag newspapers I barely read, perhaps flick through them and hope that no one opens the door. A copy of last week’s AP/RN was smuggled in and was read out last night (ingenuity of POWs again). I enjoyed listening to its contents (faultless - get off them ! - good lad Danny (Morrison)). I truly hope that the people read, take in and understand at least some of the truths that are to be regularly found in it. I see Paddy Devlin is at his usual tricks, and won’t come out and support the prisoners...

Well, that’s it for tonight. I must go. Oiche Mhaith.

Tuesday 17th

La Padraig inniu ‘s mar is gnach nior tharla aon rud suntasach, bhi me ar aifreann agus mo chuid gruaige gearrtha agam nios gaire, agus e i bhfad nios fearr freisin. Sagart nach raibh ar mo aithne abhi ag ra ran aifreann.

Bhi na giollai ag tabhairt an bhia amach do chach abhi ag teacht ar ais on aifreann. Rinneadh iarracht chun tabhairt plata bidh domhsa. Cuireadh os comhair m’aghaidh ach shiul me ar mo shli mar is nach raibh aon duine ann.

Fuair me cupla nuachtan inniu agus mar shaghas malairt bhi an Nuacht na hEireann ann. Taim ag fail pe an sceal ata le fail ona buachailli cibe ar bith.

Choniac me ceann dona dochtuiri ar maidun agus e gan beasai. Cuireann se tuirse ormsa. Bhi mo chuid meachain 57.50 kgs. Ni raibh aon ghearan agam.

Bhi oifigcach isteach liom agus thug se beagan ide beil domhsa. Arsa se ‘tchim go bhfuil tu ag leigheadh leabhar gairid. Rudmaith nach leabhar fada e mar ni chrlochnoidh tu e’.

Sin an saghas daoine ata iontu. Ploid orthu. Is cuma liom. La fadalach ab ea e. Bhi me ag smaoineamh inniu ar an chealacan seo. Deireann daoine a lan faoin chorp ach ni chuireann muinin sa chorp ar bith. Measaim ceart go leor go bhfuil saghas troda.

An dtus ni ghlacann leis an chorp an easpaidh bidh, is fulaingionn se on chathu bith, is greithe airithe eile a bhionn ag siorchlipeadh an choirp. Troideann an corp ar ais ceart go leor, ach deireadh an lae; teann achan rud ar ais chuig an phriomhrud, is e sin an mheabhair.

Is e an mheabhair an rud is tabhachtai. Mura bhfuil meabhair laidir agat chun cur in aghaidh le achan rud, ni mhairfidh. Ni bheadh aon sprid troda agat. Is ansin cen ait as a dtigeann an mheabhair cheart seo. B’fheidir as an fhonn saoirse.

Ni he cinnte gurb e an ait as a dtigeann se. Mura bhfuil siad in inmhe an fonn saoirse a scriosadh, ni bheadh siad in inmhe tu fein a bhriseadh. Ni bhrisfidh siad me mar ta an fonn saoirse, agus saoirse mhuintir na hEireann i mo chroi.

Tiocfaidh la eigin nuair a bheidh an fonn saoirse seo le taispeaint ag daoine go leir na hEireann ansin tchifidh muid eiri na gealai.

[Translated, this reads as follows:

St Patrick’s Day today and, as usual, nothing noticeable. I was at Mass, my hair cut shorter and much better also. I didn’t know the priest who said Mass.

The orderlies were giving out food to all who were returning from Mass. They tried to give me a plate of food. It was put in front of my face but I continued on my way as though nobody was there.

I got a couple of papers today, and as a kind of change the Irish News was there. I’m getting any news from the boys anyway.

I saw one of the doctors this morning, an ill-mannered sort. It tries me. My weight was 57.70 kgs. I had no complaints.

An official was in with me and gave me some lip. He said, ‘I see you’re reading a short book. It’s a good thing it isn’t a long one for you won’t finish it.’

That’s the sort of people they are. Curse them! I don’t care. It’s been a long day.

I was thinking today about the hunger-strike. People say a lot about the body, but don’t trust it. I consider that there is a kind of fight indeed. Firstly the body doesn’t accept the lack of food, and it suffers from the temptation of food, and from other aspects which gnaw at it perpetually.

The body fights back sure enough, but at the end of the day everything returns to the primary consideration, that is, the mind. The mind is the most important.

But then where does this proper mentality stem from? Perhaps from one’s desire for freedom. It isn’t certain that that’s where it comes from.

If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.

It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.]

© 2006 Irish Republican News