Black flag vigils are taking place in Dublin and elsewhere on Friday to mark the anniversary of the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. The following piece by Sands was originally published in 1978.
I fought a monster today and once more I defeated the monster’s army. Although I did not escape, I survived to fight another day.
It was hard; harder today than ever before, and it gets worse every day. You see I am trapped and all I can do is resist.
I know some day I will defeat this monster, but I weary at times. I think and feel that it may kill me first. The monster is shrewd. It plays with me, it humiliates me, and tortures me. I’m like a mouse in comparison to this giant, but when I repel the torture it inflicts upon me I feel ten feet tall for I know I am right.
I know that I am what I am, no matter what may be inflicted upon me, it will never change that fact. When I resist, it doesn’t understand. You see it doesn’t even try to comprehend why I resist.
“Why don’t you give in to me?” it says. “Give in! Give in to us!” the monster’s army jibes.
My body wants to say: “Yes, yes, do what you will with me. I am beaten, you have beaten me.” But my spirit prevails.
My spirit says: “No, no, you cannot do what you want with me. I am not beaten. You cannot do what you want with me. I refuse to be beaten.”
This angers the monster. It goes mad. It brutalises me to the point of death. But it does not kill me. I often wonder why not? But each time I face it, death materialises before me.
The monster keeps me naked. It feeds me. But it didn’t feed me today because it had tried so hard to defeat me and failed.
This angered it once more, you see. I know why it won’t kill me. It wants me to bow before it, to admit defeat.
If we don’t beat it soon it will murder me. Of this I am certain. It keeps me locked up in a dark smelly tomb and it sends its devils to keep me on edge, to keep the torture going.
Each time the door of my tomb opens, the black devils attack me! They nearly won yesterday. It was inhuman. They beat me into unconsciousness. I think, “Is this really happening to me?” and, “Can this happen in this day and age?”
Monsters do not exist. Nor do devils. There cannot be so many devils. I’m mad. Yes, that’s it, I’m insane. But my pain, suffering, and grief are real. It must be all real.
No, I’m right, I know I’m right. I must resist, I have nowhere to run. My tomb may be my grave.
I’m surrounded by a barbed wire jungle. The monster roars at me: “You shall never get out of here. If you don’t do as I say I shall never release you.” I refuse. My body is broken and cold. I’m lonely and I need comfort.
From somewhere afar I hear those familiar voices which keep me going: “We are with you, son. We are with you. Don’t let them beat you.”
I need to hear those voices. They anger the monster. It retreats. The voices scare the devils.
Sometimes I really long to hear those voices. I know if they shout louder they will scare the monster away and my suffering will be ended.
I remember, and I shall never forget, how this monster took the lives of Tom Ashe, Terence MacSwiney, Michael Gaughan, Frank Stagg, and Hugh Coney, and I wonder each night what the monster and his black devils will do to me tomorrow.
They always have something new. Will I overcome it? I must. Yes, I must.
Tomorrow will be my seven hundred and fortieth day of torture – an eternity. Yes, tomorrow I’ll rise in the H Blocks of Long Kesh. Yes, tomorrow I’ll fight the monster and his devils again!