New tribute to hunger strikers

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A new community-organised 1981 Hunger Strike mural in the Beechmount area of Belfast was unveiled last weekend as part of 40th anniversary commemorations.

The Beechmount ‘81 Hunger Strike Committee raised the funds for the new new mural, which is located at the bottom of Amcomri Street.

On the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike, several members of the group had taken part in a commemorative youth project where they created mosaic portraits of the ten hunger strikers who gave their lives in the H-Blocks.

Committee member Sean Doherty said it was time to give the hunger strikers their place in Beechmount once again.

“There has always been a hunger strike mural in Beechmount and the past couple of years there has been nothing,” he said. “We can’t forget what the ten men did. It was a brave thing for them to do.”

Fellow committee member David Fraser added: “We wanted to do something now that the whole community can get involved in, not just an individual group. We thought it would be good if everybody could come together and get a new mural up.”

A group of youngsters from the area were involved in the project, which brought a new reconnection to the history of the hunger strike.

“I think a lot of people are starting to maybe not forget what happened in the past, but try to move on too much from the past,” said Mr Fraser.

“During the second day of Bobby Sands’ diary he’s talking about James Connolly, and people could say James Connolly was in the past for him – it doesn’t really work like that. I think it’s a way for the people of Beechmount to re-learn their history or make more of a place for their history.

“It would be good when the Coronavirus passes on to have a yearly history event for the community, rather than it being just a mural on the wall. We want it to become part of the culture again.”

Dan Murphy, IRSP representative for West Belfast, was invited to speak at the opening of the mural.

In his speech, he recalled the sacrifice of the hunger-strikers and noted that the republic they fought for had still to be realised.

He said it was “a truly emotional day with some real heart breaking speeches. It was an honour to have been a part of it.”

“Well done to everyone that made this happen,” he added.

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