UK out of Ireland : Britiske besættelsesstyrker forlader de “irske provinser”

2 August 2007 –

Royal Army – den brittiske hær forlader Irland   

  EU- og Nato-landet Storbritanniens 38-årige militære besættelse på den irske ø afsluttedes ved midnat. Det betegnes som en milestolpe i fredsprocessen. Noget stort er sket i Nordirland som den irske provins Ulster kaldes af briterne. Operation “banér”, som var kodenavnet for de britiske styrkers aktiviter på Irland ,er den længste sammenhængende britiske militær-operation nogensinde. Konflikten har officielt krævet flere end tre tusind og seks hundrede menneskeliv ( 3.600).
Brittiske soldater blev sendt til de nordvestlige dele af Irland i 1969 for at bekæmpe den irske nationale selvstændighedsbevægelse. – – – – – –
Officielt hed det sig at de britiske styrker skulle dæmpe de “voldsomme religiøse modsætninger mellem katoliker, som ville tilhøre Irland, og royalistiske protestanter, som ville forblive under britisk overherredømme.

Kronologi over begivenhederne i Ulster

1801: Efter det irske oprør mod britisk overherredømme i 1798 tvinger tvinger de britiske kolonisatorer hele Irland ind under storbritisk kolonialt styre – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – hvor 85 % af befolkningen på Irland er udelukket fra politisk indflydelse

1905: Sinn Féin stiftes af irske patrioter og udvikler sig til et parti med krav på hele Irlands selvstændighed.

1920-22: Den grønne ø deles, sådan at den sydlige del bliver den Irske Fristat mens den nordlige provins Ulster eller Nordirland styres fra London.

1968-69: Irsk-katolske protester mod diskriminering; Brittiske væbnede styrker sættes ind for at kontrollere protesterne.

1970-71: Sinn Féins væbnede gren Irish Republican Army IRA beslutter at indlede den væbnede kamp for at befri hele Éire _ Irland.

1972: Bloody Sunday , den blodige søndag i Londonderry på Irland. Brittiske soldater skyder 14 ubevæbnede demonstranter ihjel.

1980: SULTESTREJKE af de følgende republikanske fanger

Leo Green (Volunteer, IRA -53 days )

Mary Doyle ( Volunteer, IRA/18 days)

Mairead Farrell (Volunteer, IRA /18 days

Brendan Hughes (IRA 53 days)

Raymond McCartney (Volunteer, IRA 53 days)

Tom McFeely (Volunteer, IRA/ 53 days)

Sean McKenna (Volunteer, IRA/53 days

Tommy McKearney (Volunteer, IRA /53 days

John Nixon (Volunteer, INLA/ 53 days

Mairead Nugent ( Volunteer, IRA/18 days)

1981: Omfattende sultestrejke i det britiske H-block-fængsel i protest mod kriminaliseringen af de irske fanger i Nordirland. Den britiske besættelsesmagt havde i 1976 berøvet de irske fanger deres politiske status (“Special Category Status”).
Med andre ord bliver de irske politiske fanger som kæmper for hele Irlands selvstændighed fra 1976 betragtet som “kriminelle” der skal følge samme regler som kriminelle fanger, f.eks at bære fangedragt. Men de irske fanger nægter at blive betragtet og behandlet som “kriminelle” og i Long Kesh ( kendt verden over som Maze-fængslet) indleder de irske fanger under vinteren 1981 den såkaldte “Blanket” og “Dirty og No Wash”-protest: De irske republikanske fanger nægter at blive opfattet som “kriminelle” og afviser derfor at iklæde sig den fangedragt på som de probritiske fængselsmyndigheder uddeler til kriminelle fanger. I stedet for deres egne civile klæder får fangerne uddelt et tæppe( blanket) som de forsøger at holde varmen med, ligesom de nægter at vaske sig.
Bobby Sands på vægmaleri i Belfast.

Den første marts 1981 – på femårsdagen for den britiske regerings ophævelse af de republikanske fangers politiske status giver Belfast-fangen Roibeard Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh, bedre kendt som Bobby Sands , signalet til den aktion som skal få briterne på knæ.
Faktisk var visse reformistisk-orienterede ledere af IRA/Sinn Fein afvisende overfor planen om en politisk sultestrejke som lederen af de republikanske fanger i Long Kesh; Bobby Sands foreslår efter fem års kampe og protester mod
kriminaliseringen af de irske politiske fanger. Dels troede de ikke på at sultestrejken ville slå igennem politisk , desuden mente de at en sultestrejke vil trække for megen opmærksom væk fra de parlamentariske bestræbelser.
Det fremgår også af artiklen fra Irish Echo
Sands var den første fange som nægtede at tage føde til sig. Flere fanger følger ham og sultestrejken bliver efterhånden kendt verden over. Dn udløser omfattende solidaritetsdemonstrationer og optøjer i de irske befriede områder i Nord-Irland.
Sultestrejken giver anledning til en international kampagne i solidaritet med fangerne og deres sag. Solidariteten med de irske frihedskæmpere breder sig ud over hele jordkloden. Selv paven i Rom– den polsk fødte Karol Wojtyła – udtaler sig om sultestrejken og beder det reaktionære Thatcher-regime i London om at forhandle. Bobby Sands bliver – under sultestrejken – opstillet som Anti H-Block-kandidat til det britiske parlamentsvalg. Sands bliver valgt ind i House of Commons; det britiske parlament i London den 9. april med 30 492 stemmer mod 29 046 til den pro-britiske kandidat Harry West. Tre uger senere døde Sands i fængselssygehuset efter 66 dages heroisk sultestrejke.
Nyheden om bobby Sands bortgang utløste optøjer som varede i flere dage, og mere end 100 000 mennesker deltog i hans gravfærd. I løbet av sommeren døde yderligere ni sultestrejkende.

Vægmaleri i solidaritet med de irske fangers kamp mod kriminaliseringen , for politisk status

IRSKE MARTYRER under sultestrejken 1981 for fangernes politisk status :    

*  Navn  *        *       *             Hjemby         Dødsdag    Sultestreikens længde /

* Bobby Sands * medlem af PIRA – – – Belfast (Twinbrook)         5. mai                  66 dage __

* Francis Hughes * medlem af PIRA –   Bellaghy                         12. mai             59 dage

* Raymond McCreesh * medlem af PIRA Camlough                     21. mai               61 dage

* Patsy O’Hara * medlem af INLA            Derry                             21. mai              61 dage

* Joe McDonnel *medlem af PIRA           Belfast (Lenadoon)          8. juli               61 dage

* Martin Hurson * medlem af PIRA         Cappagh                        13. juli                  46 dage

* Kevin Lynch * medlem af INLA  Dungiven     1. august              71 dage

* Kieran Doherty * medlem af PIRA      Belfast (Andersontown) 2. august              73 dage

* Thomas McElwee *medlem af PIRA     Bellaghy                         8. august               62 dage

* Michael Devine * medlem af INLA             Derry                       20. august              60 dage 

*PIRA= Provisoriske Irish Republican Army *
*INLA= Irish National Liberation Army *



;

“> Mindesfilm om de ti irske martyrer i Sultestrejken 1981 som for alvor gjorde den irske befrielseskamp kendt jorden rundt
GLEM IKKE SULTESTREJKEN : 25 året for sultestrejken i det neokolonialistiske H-block-fængsel
1993:
21 år efter indledes fredsprocessen da Sinn Féin får plads ved forhandlingsbordet. 1998: Langfredagsoverenskomsten med magtdeling mellem “irske katoliker” og “pro-britiske protestanter”.1999: Nordirland får selvstyre, men provinsregeringen bliver kortlivet.2002: London overtager det direkte styre over de “nordirske provinser”2006: Internationell kommission bekræfter at IRA har afviklet sine militære strukturer og ikke længere udgør “nogen trussel”.2007: Ian Paisleys pro-britiske parti DUP og irske Sinn Féin leder en regering som tiltræder den 8 maj.2007: Den 1 august er den brittiske hærs opgaver i Irland formelt afsluttet. Ordningen i “provinsen” er herefter politiets ansvar. Storbritannien har dog stadig en “fredstids-Garnison” på fem tusind soldater som “trænes” for at hjælpe den USA-ledte besættelsesmagts terror og undertrykkelse af folket i Afghanistan. ° °
Kvinderne og den irske befrielseskamp
Læs videre om INLA-martyren Patrik O´Hara´s gravfærd: Massive Tribute to Patsy O’Hara ; June 1981
og The Irish Republican Socialist Movemenmt


De Fem Krav fra de Irske Republican Fanger

The Blanket Protest, the Dirty and No-Wash Protest, and the Hunger Strikes
all were struggles by Irish Republican prisoners to regain the political status that they had enjoyed prior to 1976, when the British Government decided arbitrarily to end what was known as ‘Special Category Status’ and implement a policy of ‘Criminalisation’.
In 1976 all new prisoners were introduced to a newly constructed prison — the infamous ‘H-Blocks’, where all previous privileges of political status were denied.

After 1976 the prisoners demanded that certain rights be restored to them:
1. The Right/Retten til not to wear a prison uniform;
2. Retten til not to do prison work;
3. The Right of free association with other prisoners;
4. The Right to organize their own educational and recreational facilities;
5. The Right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week.

When the British refused to grant these rights, the prisoners escalated the protests to the point where 10 men died rather than give in to the British system of criminalisation. /Kilder: Irish Times,

Sultestrejken 1981 : A View North Anniversaries recall the rise of Sinn Fein
Af Jack Holland

This week carries two important anniversaries in the North’s calendar of the conflict, and both fall on the same day: March 1. Twenty-five years ago, on that day, the British government formally abolished special category status for prisoners and began its long and ultimately fruitless attempt to force imprisoned republicans to wear a prison uniform, do prison work, and conform to the other exigencies that in most jails are a sign of criminality.

Twenty years ago on March 1, having failed to persuade the authorities through various forms of protest that their efforts to “criminalize” republicans would not succeed, the IRA and INLA prisoners’ leadership in the Maze Prison launched a hunger strike that would go on for almost seven months and change the course of the North’s conflict forever.

Conventionally, the birth of the Provisional republican movement is dated to late 1969 and early 1970. But in a real sense, the events that began on March 1, 1976, and led to the hunger strike five years later, saw a rebirth of the Provisionals. In many ways, the movement as it exists today is more of a descendant of 1981 than of 1969.

“Our beginnings never know our ends,” T.S. Eliot wrote. When Bobby Sands presented the IRA leadership with the prospect of a hunger strike, it was not welcomed.

The belief was that it would not work. But there was another objection, ironic in the view of what was to happen.

According to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams: “It must also be said that, in terms of the political priorities of the movement, we did not want the hunger strike. We were just beginning our attempts to remedy the political underdevelopment of the movement, trying to develop the organization, engaging in a gradual build-up of new forms of struggle and, in particular, we were working out our strategy in relation to elections. We were well aware that a hunger strike such as was proposed would demand exclusive attention, would, in effect, hijack the struggle, and this conflicted with our sense of the political priorities of the moment.” (From “A Free Ireland: Towards a Lasting Peace.”)

Since 1977, Gerry Adams and others had been striving to restructure the Provisionals and beef up the role played by its political wing, Sinn Fein. Since 1970, Provisional Sinn Fein had existed as a poor cousin to the Provisional IRA, a weak, largely ignored propaganda unit. No one conceived of it as a viable political party, probably not even Adams. In the secret plans that outlined the proposed changes (uncovered in 1977), Sinn Fein is seen as an extension of the IRA, a way of “increasing support for the [IRA] cell.”

This attitude prevailed through the late 1970s and the different stages of the prison protests. Though support for the prisoners was stirring on the streets, the Provisionals’ leadership resisted trying to translate this into political capital via elections. When Bernadette Devlin McAliskey ran for the European parliament in 1979, she made the prisoners’ plight her single issue. But she was opposed by the Provisionals, who advocated a boycott. Even the fact that she won over 30,000 first-preference votes did not convince the Provisionals to move away from their hostility to constitutional forms of struggle. By 1981, most of them were still opposed to fighting elections.

There is another irony in that it was Daithi O Conaill, the republican traditionalist, who argued in favor of political intervention in April 1981 as Sands, the leading hunger striker, entered his second month of fasting. Local Provisionals were opposed, and Adams, it is reported, remained non-committal. But O Conaill carried the day.

In the end, the success of Sinn Fein as a political party led to the demise of many of the Provisionals’ founding members, O Conaill included, who left the movement in disgust in 1986 because it had decided to recognize the Dail. By this stage, the movement’s resources were shifting away from the IRA to the political party, so much so that one prominent Belfast leader, a close ally of Adams, tried to outflank the leadership when he became concerned that IRA would be run down. He ended up being threatened and kicked out of the movement completely. He has since remained silent.

This was hardly the legacy that the hunger strikers had envisioned. In so far as they had a vision at all, it was expressed in the Romantic nationalism of Sands, a far cry from the political pragmatism that characterizes the movement today. The propaganda battle being waged now is over who has the right to claim that legacy. Dissident republicans claim that the Provisionals have betrayed the hunger strikers’ struggle through compromise with constitutional politics. Several of the hunger strikers’ families have distanced themselves from Sinn Fein. Brendan Hughes, who led the first hunger strike (October through December 1980) and became an important go-between during the course of the second hunger strike, has been bitter in his criticism of the Adams leadership and the new-look Sinn Fein. As in all ideological battles, he who wants to control the present has to control the past.

This battle may well become acute in the upcoming months, as Sinn Fein faces into a British general election with the peace process more than likely stalled. The goodies that are most important to the party, like policing reform and the cross-border bodies, have either not been delivered or, having been delivered, have not been allowed to work to Sinn Fein’s benefit.

In what could be an unfortunate coincidence, the election is expected to fall on May 3, just two days before the 20th anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death. In West Belfast, Marion Price, herself a former hunger striker, is threatening to run against Gerry Adams, as is a prisoner linked to the Continuity IRA. Will Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, sister of the dead hunger striker and spokesperson for dissident republicans, campaign on Price’s behalf in the constituency? And what effect would she have if she did?

Perhaps anticipating such attacks, the Provisionals have gone back to basics, as evidenced by IRA leader Brian Keenan‘s speech in south Armagh two weeks ago. He said:
“The revolution can never be over until we have our country, until we have British imperialism where it belongs, in the dust bin of history.”


When mainstream republicans start attacking British imperialism again, it can only mean one thing: the next election has well and truly begun.
Artiklen blev skrevet i 2001 -til 20 års dagen for den heroiske sultestrejke og bragt i The Irish Echo i udgaven for 7.-13. marts 2001 (alle fremhævninger tilføjet af red.)


FAKTA og BAGGRUND om de irske fangeoprør sultestrejker 1976-81

I Maj 1972, a hunger strike commenced in Belfast Prison, which IRA prisoners ended 35 days later when British Direct-Ruler William Whitelaw gave in and granted ’special category status’, that is political status to political prisoners. From then, until 1976, many thousands of Irish men and women served their prison sentences under this special category regime in the cages of Long Kesh, and in A-Wing of Armagh women’s prison.. Between the years 1971 and 1975 thousands of additional prisoners, interned without trial, had a similar status in Armagh, Magilligan, Belfast Prison, the prison-ship Maidstone, and Long Kesh.
The existence of thousands of prisoners, interned and sentenced under a regime which recognised them as political prisoners, coupled with the popular support for the armed struggle, forced the British government, after some earlier political and military miscalculations, to instigate a number of classical counterinsurgency measures. Primarily, the objective was to isolate those engaged in the resistance struggle from their support and to ‘normalise’ life in the Six-County state.

CRIMINALISERING

This attempted ‘isolation and normalisation’ policy took on a number of forms, all interlocked. There were various strategies adopted to create an illusion of political normalisation, the so-called ‘primacy of the police’, the gradual withdrawal of British army units and the Ulsterisation of British military forces were all tactically designed to isolate those engaged in struggle. This criminalisation attempt was part of the overall effort to project the resistance struggle as a criminal conspiracy and ran parallel with a propaganda thrust which saw the use of such terminology as ‘paramilitaries, Godfather, mafia’ etc, etc, by British government spokespersons.
A major obstacle to this criminalisation policy was the fact that almost 2,000 prisoners, recognised by the British government as political prisoners, were still held in British prisons, which directly contradicted the British government’s propaganda claims. Long Kesh, by name and appearance was known worldwide as a concentration camp and the large number of political prisoners drawn from all over the Six Counties enjoyed, through family, community and local connections, maximum support.
In January 1975, a British commission (The Gardiner Commission) made a number of important recommendations. These included the phasing-out of political status and the ending of internment. Long Kesh had already been renamed HMP The Maze. A 50% remission scheme was introduced to accommodate the release of sentenced prisoners and the internees were released.
An arbitrary date, March 1st, was set and the British declared that anyone arrested after that date would not be treated as political prisoners and would serve their sentences in new cellular accommodation. The H-Blocks, designed to maximise the control of prisoners in four small wings of 25 single cells (instead of the traditional large huts), were born. In British terms, the strategy was simple. Outside the prison, however, the situation started to change, resistance recommenced and without the benefit of internment orders, the British Government employed new ‘legal’ methods to intern their opponents and to demoralise an uncompromising population. Castlereagh torture centre came into its own, rules of evidence were changed, extra Diplock (non-jury) courts were brought in, judges were appointed and the H-Block conveyor-belt went into full gear. Now instead of internment the British had a legal-looking process of arrest, charge, remand, trial and sentence. That the arrests were arbitrary, the charges based on forced confessions, the remands lengthy, the trials farcical and the sentences totally unjust was incidental,. The propaganda machine adequately covered all that. At least in the beginning.
The architects of the new policy to criminalise those who resisted and portray prisoners as ordinary criminals, failed to take into account the resistance of a new generation of political prisoners, those sentenced after March 1st. They refused to accept the new regime, refused to cooperate with the prison guards or to accept prison discipline. They refused to wear the prison uniform, were denied thier own clothes, and wore only a blanket. As their numbers increased and the blanket protest strengthened, news of beatings, deprivations and maltreatment began to leak out of the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and the women’s prison in Armagh.

BLANKET PROTEST BEGINS

I Marts 1978, 18 months after the start of the blanker protest, with over 300 prisoners on protest, the prison administration stepped up the beatings and harassment and forced the blanket men on to the no-wash, no-slop out protest. This was to last for a full three years and arose essentially because the men were refused washing or toilet facilities or were beaten when they left their cells. The same thing was to happen later in Armagh in February 1980 when the prison administration attacked the women political prisoners, assaulting them and withdrawing toilet facilities.
The majority of protesting prisoners, both men and women, were in their late teens or 20s and over 80% were imprisoned solely on the strength of forced confessions. They were refused from the beginning of their sentences all exercise facilities, reading or writing material, and access to radio or newspapers. Kept in cells on a punishment diet, with loss of all remission and without furniture, they were constantly beaten and harassed. Sinn Féin and Relatives’ Action Groups began a protest campaign, mostly confined to the Six-Counties, on the prisoner’s behalf.

KARDINAL O FIAICH BESØGER H-BLOCKS

It was not until Cardinal, then Archbishop, O Fiaich, visited the prisoners on July 31st, 1978, and condemned the conditions under which the prisoners were being held, that greater public interest increased. He said: “Having spent the whole of Sunday in the prison, I was shocked at the inhuman conditions prevailing in H-Blocks 3,4 and 5 where over 300 prisoners were incarcerated. One would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions, let alone a human being. The nearest approach to it that I have seen was the spectacle of hundreds of homeless people living in sewer pipes in the slums of Calcutta. The stench and filth in some cells, with the remains of rotten food and human excreta scattered around the walls, was almost unbelievable. In two of them I was unable to speak for the fear of vomiting. The prisoners’ cells are without beds, chairs or tables. They sleep on mattresses on the floor, and in some cases I noticed they were quite wet. They have no covering except towel or blanket, no books, newspapers or reading material except the Bible (even religious magazines have been banned since my last visit), no pens or writing material, or TV, or radio, no hobbies or handcrafts, no exercise or recreation. They are locked in their cells for almost the whole of every day and some of them have been in this condition for more than a year and a half.”
Public interest had also been aroused by the Amnesty International report of June 1978, which stated categorically that: “Maltreatment of suspected terrorists by the RUC, has taken place with sufficient frequency to warrant establishment of a public inquiry to investigate it”.
However, the plight of the H-Block and Armagh prisoners again faded to some degree from the public view, until the establishment of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee in October 1979. This committee, elected from a broad-based campaign, advocated, with endorsement of the prisoners, five basic demands whose implementation would resolve the prison deadlock:
The five demands were:
(1) No prison uniform;
(2) No prison work;
(3) Free association;
(4) Full remission;
(5) Visits, parcels, and recreational/educational facilities.

I Marts 1980 Cardinal O Fiaich again visited the prison and the following day he and Bishop Edward Daly met Direct-Ruler Humphrey Atkins for talks to attempt to settle the crisis, especially since the blanket men were now advocating hunger strike as a way out of the deadlock.
In an attempt to create an atmosphere conductive to a settlement and to take pressure off the British administration, the IRA ceased its attacks on prison officials. These talks dragged on for over six months before Cardinal O Fiaich and Bishop Daly had to admit they were getting nowhere.

FIRST HUNGER STRIKE BEGINS

The blanket men and protesting women prisoners, totally exasperated, finally commenced hunger strike on October 27th, 1980. The fist H-Block hunger strike that was to last 56 days saw the greatest nationalist mobilisation in Ireland since the early days of the civil rights/anti-internment campaign. That peaceful and disciplined campaign, organised by the National H-Block/Armagh Committee, attracted on a single issue scores of thousands of people and united people of different political persuasions. The campaign itself came under attack from British and pro-British elements and campaign leaders John Turnley, Miriam Daly, Noel Little and Ronnie Bunting were murdered and Bernadette and Michael McAliskey were wounded.
The hunger strike ended on December 18th when the British government presented to the seven men who had fasted 53 days two documents. The three women hunger strikers ended their hunger strike the following day. On Thursday afternoon of December 18th, as the condition of hunger-striker Sean McKenna rapidly deteriorated, the British minister in charge of the Six Counties, Direct Ruler Humphrey Atkins, suddenly and without public explanation postponed a statement he had been due to make to the British parliament and ensured that it was delivered to the seven hunger strikers in the prison hospital along with a 34-page document entitled Regimes in Northern Ireland Prisons, Prisoners day to day life with special emphasis on Maze.
This document was new to the men and to the general public and was a major elaboration of how far the British government had gone in meeting the political prisoners’ five demands. “If they choose to live, the conditions available to them meet in a practical and humane way the kind of things they have been asking for”, said Atkins.
The fact that a British cabinet minister postponed a parliamentary statement to send it to protesting republican prisoners in order to seek a settlement to the 53-day-old hunger-strike, was a unique act of political recognition in itself and the delivery of the 34-page document reinforced this political recognition for up until then there had been no bending from the British government apart from one incident. On Wednesday, December 10th, when a senior member of the colonial Northern Ireland Office, a Mr Blellock, met the seven H-Block hunger strikers in the prison hospital and read out to them the prison reforms that were then available but refused to answer questions or negotiate with Brendan Hughes, former O/C of the blanket men.
The delivery of the document and the ending of the hunger-strike ushered in a new atmosphere and Bobby Sands, the blanket men’s O/C, was given freedom to liase and meet with the hunger strikers in the prison hospital, and each of the blanket Block O/Cs, and it was with him that the jail governor met directly, thus conferring recognition of the republican command structure. This recognition was reinforced when on Friday, December 19th, all of the H-Block O/Cs were brought out of their blocks for a further meeting with Bobby Sands in H-Block 3. Bobby Sands himself publicly expressed satisfaction at the new era of cooperation inside the jail, unprecedented since the British government embarked upon its policy of criminalisation in March 1976.
However, to the dismay of the prisoners, within days the atmosphere in the prison changed as soon as the spotlight shifted away from the jail. All the document’s phrases about the situation not begin static; work not being interpreted narrowly and the prison regime being progressive, humane and flexible were soon shown not to be worth the paper they were written on.
The blanket men had hoped to move about 30 men off the blanket and no-wash protest before Christmas Day but were stopped by Governor Hilditch who told Bobby Sands that nobody would be moving anywhere until they put on prison-issue clothing and conformed. In Armagh Jail, where women are allowed to wear their own clothes, George Scott the governor refused even to discuss with prisoners the question of self-education classes as outlined in the document.

HUMPHREY ATKINS RENEGES

On January 9th, in the British Parliament, Humphrey Atkins publicly reneged on his December 18th statement by reversing the order in which the men received their own clothes.
The prison administration tried to force the men to unconditionally end their protest but at a further meeting between all the H-Block O/Cs on January 11th it was decided to attempt in a step-by-step process the de-escalation of the protests in a principled fashion. Thus, following a period in which the prisoners cooperated to their utmost with a stubborn regime, on January 27th 96 prisoners smashed up cell furniture in a fit of frustration. The reaction from the prison administration was swift and brutal. Over 80 prisoners were assaulted, beaten in wing shifts, left overnight without bedding or blankets or drinking water, refused toilet facilities and had meals interfered with or withdrawn altogether.
It was back to square one. Despite calls from the blanket men to those who had appealed to them to abandon their hunger strike, no one, from Bishop to politician, spoke out. Then on March 1st, Bobby Sands commenced hunger strike. In a statement announcing the commencement of the hunger strike the political prisoners said:
“We the republican POWs in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, and our comrades in Armagh Prison, are entitled to and hereby demand political status, and we reject today as we have consistently rejected every day since September 14th, 1976, when the blanket protest began, the British government’s attempted criminalisation of ourselves and our struggle.
“Five years ago this day, the British government declared that anyone arrested and convicted after March 1st, 1976, was to be treated as a criminal and no longer as a political prisoner. Five years later we are still able to declare that that criminalisation policy, which we have resisted and suffered, has failed.
“If a British government experienced such a long and persistent resistance to a domestic policy in England then that policy would almost certainly be changed. But no so in Ireland where its traditional racist attitude blinds its judgement to reason and persuasion.
“Only the loud voice of the Irish people and world opinion can bring them to their senses and only a hunger strike, where lives are laid down as proof of the strength of our political convictions, can rally such opinion and present the British with the problem that, far from criminalizing the cause of Ireland, their intransigence is actually bringing popular attention to that cause.
“We have asserted that we are political prisoners and everything about our country, our arrest, interrogations, trials and prison conditions, show that we are politically motivated and not motivated by selfish reasons or for selfish ends. As further demonstration of our selflessness and the justness of our cause a number of comrades, beginning today with Bobby Sands will hunger strike to the death unless the British government abandons its criminalisation policy and meets our demand for political status.”

Britiske BBC tolker sultestrejken i 1981 på denne måde :
10 republicanske fangers død i to sulte-strejker organiseret af Bobby Sands og IRA i 1981 blev et vendepunkt IRA og den politiske gren, Sinn Fein.

IRA Fangerne, who had lost special status, were determined to win five rights: to wear their own clothes, to refrain from prison work, freedom to associate and to organise their own leisure activities and to have lost remission restored.

DEn første sultestrejkebegan on 27 October, 1980. Although the IRA leadership opposed the strike, they could not ignore the prisoners’ wishes. At the time, there were more members of the IRA locked up in the Maze prison than active members outside.

It ended in failure. On the 53rd day of the strike, prisoner leader Brendan Hughes called it off believing a government courier was en route with a letter meeting prisoners demands. It did not.

DEn anden strejke var mere strategisk. The new prisoner leader, Bobby Sands, decided at strejken skulle gennemføres efter et “rullende” skema, with a new prisoner joining the fast each week. That, he believed, would lead to a death a week and put increasing pressure on the government to meet prisoner demands.

Bobby Sands refused food on 1 March, 1981. But the hunger strike really kicked into action four days later when the then MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Frank McGuire, died. Sinn Fein nominated Sands for the seat and the election drew world-wide attention to the prisoners’ protest. In a tense battle between Sands (standing as the Anti H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner candidate) and the UUP’s Harry West, Sands won with 51.2% of the vote – a majority of 1,446.

Bobby Sands lapsed into a coma on 3 May. He died one hour after midnight on the 66th day of his strike. At least 70,000 people attended Bobby Sands’ Belfast funeral and protests erupted across nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. The immediate gain for the IRA was a sudden rise in membership.
Cardinal Basil Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, condemned Sands, describing the hunger strike as a form of violence. However he noted that this was his personal view. Den Kristen Katolske Kirkes officielle stanspunkt was that ministrations should be provided to the hunger strikers who, believing that their sacrifice to be for a higher good, were acting in good conscience.
Archbishop John R. Roach, president of the US Catholic bishops, called Sands’ death “a useless sacrifice”. The Ledger of May 5, 1981 under the headline “To some he was a hero, to others a terrorist” claims that the hunger strike made Sands “a hero among Irish Republicans or Nationalists seeking the reunion of Protestant-dominated and British-ruled Northern Ireland with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic to the south.”
Margaret Thatcher’s government was determined not to give into the prisoners’ demands and the strike continued. The second striker, Francis Hughes, died on 12 May, sparking rioting in many nationalist areas of the province. Nine days later two more prisoners died on the 61st day of their strike.

The British government appeared to be digging in its heels and the families of the strikers began to lose faith that concessions could be won. On 31 July, the Quinn family took their son off his fast. Within a month several others were given medical attention. The last prisoner died on 20 August.

The strike came to an end on 3 October, 217 days after it had begun. Northern Ireland Secretary James Prior announced that prisoners could wear their own clothes and that remission lost would be restored. No formal recognition was ever made of their right to political status, though many have argued that it had been de facto granted through the concessions and others that followed.

Although all the demands were not met and 10 men had died, many republicans regarded the hunger strike, in political terms, as a success.

It had attracted massive international and domestic political attention to the prisoners’ demand and led to a direct political gain. Over the next two years, Sinn Fein saw its share of the vote rise as the new twin strategy of using both the “Armalite and the ballot box” emerged.

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