Thousands attend hunger strike events

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The first Sinn Féin hunger strike Commemoration in three years took place in Belfast on Sunday 21st August.

Thousands of supporters came together to honour and remember the 1981 hunger strikers. Following bands, they walked along the Falls Road to the republican plot at Milltown Cemetery, where they paid tribute to the ten men who died in 1981.

Veteran republican Pat Sheehan, who spent 55 days on hunger strike in the H-Blocks, delivered the oration in Milltown cemetery to an audience which included several Blanketmen and others from the protests against criminalisation.

“If the aim of the government during the hunger strike was to crush republicanism, it only achieved the opposite,” he told those gathered.

“In terms of the political impact of the hunger strike, we need to remember that the aim of criminalisation was to defeat the republican struggle.

“So, how has that worked out? The Orange state has gone. Unionist domination has gone.

“Sinn Féin is the biggest party in the North and on the island of Ireland, and so, the opposite of what was intended has come to pass.

“Criminalisation was defeated and the injustice of partition and the British state in Ireland was exposed to international scrutiny as never before.”

The West Belfast man told supporters that the hunger strikers’ “bravery set in train a series of events that makes the momentum for political and social change unstoppable and irreversible”.

“That momentum will carry us forward to the realisation of an Irish national democracy. A republic where the rights and identity of all our people, of whatever persuasion or background, will be accommodated and cherished.”

Mr Sheehan added: “It is often said that there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and that time has come now. Let’s all together finish the job and achieve a new Republic.”

The Irish Republican Socialist Movement also held its annual Hunger Strike National commemoration at the weekend. The event took place at the Rosemount Factory in Derry and was addressed by prominent local republican socialist Martin McMonagle, who paid tribute to the martyrs of 1981.

“As we remember the sacrifice of our comrades we need to ask what more we should do in order to fulfil their political legacy,” he told those gathered.

“We need to look at where we are at and what needs to be done. Whilst that battle was won inside Long Kesh, the war which many others gave their lives for has not. The British presence in Ireland remains. We need to re-double our efforts at removing the British government from our country.

“The IRSP have been to the forefront in the campaign for a border poll in Ireland. We need to keep this pressure on. We need to remind people that they can bring about real change. If we work together and with a focus on our end goal I believe that we can finally remove the British political and military establishment from our country.”

Mr McMonagle also said the party would make itself available for “direct dialogue” with those who have involvement in bonfire issues to explore ways in which “traditions can continue” without causing offence and distress to neighbouring communities.

“We are up for this and this is an open invitation for dialogue,” he said.

Continuity Sinn Féin held its hunger strike commemoration on August 21 in Nenagh, County Tipperary, to mark the death of the last prisoner to die, Michael Devine. The main oration was read out by CSF member Laura Coughlan.

This Saturday will also see the 41st annual hunger strike commemoration by Republican Sinn Féin in Bundoran, County Donegal, at 2.30pm. Speakers for the event on Saturday are RSF chairperson Tomás Ó Curraoin and a representitive of the hunger strikers families. Bands and a piper will be in attendance and the commemoration will be followed by a republican function.

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