Tributes to Irish hunger strikers appear around New York

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A series of tributes to the ten Irish men who died on hunger strike in 1981 have been appearing around New York City in recent months.

On July 8, a photo of one tribute was shared on Instagram, marking the anniversary of the death of Irish hunger striker Joe McDonnell who died on that day in 1981.

“A few friends from my GAA club and local community here in Queens have been marking each anniversary of the Hunger Strikers with a memorial in different traditional Irish neighbourhoods,” one of those involved told Irish Central.

“So far we have done Woodlawn, East Durham, Astoria, and Sunnyside and plan to mark the rest of dates around the five boroughs!”

The caption for the latest post by ‘When New York Was Irish’ reads: “Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the death of IRA volunteer, Joe McDonnell. Joe died in a British prison after 61 days on hunger strike. Sunnyside, and the wider New York Irish community, remember Joe with pride.

“A family man and brave Irish patriot, Joe made the ultimate sacrifice. He unselfishly gave his life so that all people on the island of Ireland, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, could live as equals in a fair and just society.

Joe McDonnell’s 40th Anniversary was marked at the famous Bliss Subway Station on Queens Boulevard. The immediate vicinity to the subway station boasts many strong links to Ireland.

“The re-ignition of Ireland’s struggle for independence in the late 60s saw Sunnyside, and many other New York Irish communities, become focal points for fundraising in support of Irish freedom. Famed Derry IRA leader Sean Keenan gave a speech at Sunnyside Gardens to a large crowd in July 1972. Such fundraising events to support Irish freedom were constant in the area.

“Fittingly, the oration at Joe McDonnell’s funeral was delivered by Leitrim man and former IRA Chief of Staff with strong New York connections, John Joe McGirl. McGirl visited the Sunnyside area after his release from Long Kesh. A few years prior, he was honored by the local Irish community.”

The same Instagram account has previously shared three other tributes erected around New York, to Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Patsy O’Hara and Ray McCreesh.

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