A new exhibition was launched in Belfast on Tuesday, 30 years to the day from the beginning of the second hunger strike for political status by republican PoW Bobby Sands.
A separate event saw republicans gathered at the Andersonstown Barracks site in west Belfast. The graves of three of the hunger strikers - Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty - lie only yards from the Andersonstown Barracks site in Milltown Cemetery’s republican plot.
The Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, opening the exhibition at the Linen Hall library, said Sinn Fein’s electoral success could be traced back to the hunger strikes of 1981.
Mr McGuinness explained how the decision to stand hunger strikers for election, including Bobby Sands, who was MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone when he died, had sparked the republican movement’s shift into electoral politics.
He described the move as “a seminal moment” in the development of Irish republicanism.
The extensive exhibition includes artefacts and items of clothing worn by some of the 10 republicans who died at the Maze prison during the protest against the British authorities who denied the prisoners political status.
Mr McGuinness was joined by party leaders Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, who both won seats in the election to the Dublin parliament at the weekend.
Mr McGuinness said the party was now preparing for local government and Assembly elections north of the border on May 5, the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands.
“The hunger strikers and Bobby’s participation, with Kieran Doherty and other hunger strikers, in the elections was a seminal moment in the development of Irish republicanism,” he said.
“From then to now, we have steadily built Irish republicanism on this island, with enormous success in the north.
“It’s fair to say there was disappointment in terms of our lack of ability to keep pace with what was happening in the north, in the south of our country.
“But what has happened over the weekend has been a step-change.
“It has been an enormous, enormous political development in the republicanising of this island.”
The “all-Ireland agenda” was coming together with major support for Sinn Fein in the north and growing support for Sinn Fein in the south, he said.
“Our project is an all-Ireland project.
“We are unashamedly Irish republicans. We are united-Irelanders. And we are going to continue with our strategy.
“Those who try to portray that as a threat are making a huge mistake. It threatens nobody.”