Presentation on theme: "Hunger strikes Ireland in Schools Durham Pilot Scheme"— Presentation transcript:
1Hunger strikes 1980 1981 Ireland in Schools Durham Pilot Scheme Raymond McCartney, 1980
2What were the hunger strikes about? Culmination of conflict over the status of republican prisonersCriminals or prisoners of war?Defined nature of conflict in Northern IrelandLocal issue of law & order or colonial war of global interest?Terrorists or freedom fighters in long republican traditionQuestioned nature of British justice in Northern IrelandNature of courtsBehaviour of police & prison authoritiesThree phases of protestBlanket protest, 1976‘Dirty protest’, 1978Hunger strikes: 1980 & 1981 (10 died)
3Chronology1 May Special category status for paramilitary prisoners forcertain offences withdrawnSuch prisoners now regarded as criminals14 Sept. IRA Blanket protest beginsMar. Dirty protest begins26 Mar. End of special category status for all paramilitary prisoners27 Oct. First wave of hunger strikes by IRA begins18 Dec. First hunger strike ends1 Mar. Second wave hunger strikes by IRA & INLA* begins led byBobby Sands, IRA commander in the Maze prison9 Apr. Bobby Sands elected to Westminster5 May Bobby Sands dies – 9 more die subsequently29 July Compromise refused by hunger strikers31 July First family intervention – Paddy Quinn taken off hunger strike20 Aug. 10th & last hunger striker dies3 Oct. Second wave of hunger strikes ends6 Oct. Government announces changes in prison regime* Irish National Liberation Army
4Republican view of British justice in Northern Ireland A cartoon from Republican News, published in Belfast,June 1980.Diplock courts did not have juries, because of the problem in Northern Ireland of witnessesbeing intimidated.The case wastried by a judge.
6Where were paramilitaries held? HM Prison Maze, near Belfastaka The H Blocks, Long Kesh or The Maze or, in Irish, Ceis FadaArranged in distinctive H-shaped blocksRun as a prisoner of war campInternees lived in dormitoriesdisciplined themselves with military-style command structuresdrilled with dummy guns made from woodheld lectures on guerrilla warfare and revolutionary politics1,500 prisoners, nationalists & loyalists in 1978
9Why were prisoners given such freedom? Since July 1972 not regarded as ordinary criminalsAfter hunger strike in Crumlin Road Gaol, 1971Special Category Status (SCS) given to all prisoners convicted of scheduled terrorist crimesEffectively prisoner of war status with some POW ‘privileges’ as in Geneva ConventionNot to have to wear prison uniforms or do prison workHoused within their various paramilitary factionsAllowed extra visits & food parcelsSCS withdrawn, 1 March 1976
10Why did government withdraw SCS? Change of security policy to ‘re-position’ conflictUlsterisationReduce role of the British Army in favour of RUC, etc.Show NI conflict was an internal, rather than a colonial, problem in the eyes of the worldCriminalisationParamilitaries common criminals engaging in criminal acts of terrorismNot 'political prisoners' involved in a political conflict
11How well-informed was the new security policy? Slow to recognise strength of view in Ireland that paramilitary activities were political, not criminalPrisoners regarded themselves as soldiers fightinglegitimate & historic war for Ireland’s freedomWide support or sympathy for this view‘I would like you to know that my son is not a criminal.He was a bad boy and should not have shot that man.But if I thought he was a criminal I would never allow himto come inside my house again.’Mrs McCloskey talking with Lord Gowrie, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Sept. 1981,just before taking her son, Liam, off his 46-day hunger strike
12‘That told me a great deal about the attitude and the mentality of the Republican community.’Jim Prior, new & more open-minded NI Secretary, Sept. 1981
13How did republican prisoners first protest? Blanket protestRefused to wear prison uniformsWore only prison blanketStarted by Kieran Nugent, 15 Sept. 1976First IRA member convicted after SCS withdrawnRefused to wear prison uniformPlaced in cell naked except for prison blanketResponse of prison authoritiesDenied non-conforming prisoners all privilegesNo visits; No food parcels; No remissionAssaults by prison officersPrisoners’ response‘Dirty protest’, Mar. 1978
14What was the dirty protest? Began Mar. 1978IRA prisoners continued to wear blankets instead of prison uniformsRefused to leave cells & washSmeared cells withExcrementMenstrual blood (in Armagh women’s prison)500 protesters by 1980
16I lived like this from 1978 to 1981 - for three years. I just smeared it on the wall. I ripped off a lump of the mattress to do it with.You were going against your whole socialization of how you were brought up.You were going against everything you'd ever learned about basic hygiene and manners and stuff like that.I lived like this from 1978 to for three years.After a time, you became accustomed to it. The maggots, for example. I mean, nobody likes maggots. You’d be repelled by them. I don’t think I could touch a maggot now. If there was one sitting here, you know, I’d flick it away or get somebody else to do it.But you became so accustomed to them being in the cell, especially when winter was coming in and it was cold. They must sense where warmth is.You were literally waking up in the morning and there were maggots in the bed with you. It just gets to the stage where you just brush them off.I think the human spirit can become accustomed to any environment.Gerard Hodgkins
17What were the protesters’ demands? Right to wear their own clothesRight not to do prison workRight to free association with other prisonersRight to a weekly visit, letter & parcel and to organise educational & recreational activitiesRestoration of remission lost through protest
23What was the government response? Withdrew political status for all paramilitary prisonersPeople who may have once claimed an idealarethugs and gangsters.Roy Mason, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1978
24How did the protesters respond to government refusal to restore SCS? Dirty protest making no headwaySpecial category status even withdrawn from all paramilitariesEscalated protest2 waves of hunger strikes27 Sept. – 18 Dec. 19801 Mar. – 3 Oct. 1981InstigatorBrendan Hughes, OC H-Blocks170 prisoners volunteered in 1980
25What role had hunger strikes played in the republican past? Irish republican hunger strikessince 191712 men had previously died,includingThomas Ashe, 1917Terence MacSwiney, 1920Seán McCaughey, 1946Michael Gaughan, 1974Frank Stagg, 1976
26What happened during the 1980 hunger strike? Began 27 Oct. 19807 men went on hunger strike & 3 women at ArmaghUnderestimated determination of Margaret ThatcherEnded 18 Dec in mistaken expectation of concessions
27Why were hunger strikes resumed in 1981? Resumed 1 Mar. 1981Discussions with government failingInitiative taken by prisoners themselvesLeader – Bobby Sands, IRA commandant in the Maze10 diedEnded 3 Oct.1981Some concessions announced 6 Oct. 1981
28Who died on hunger strike in 1981? Bobby Sands (26) Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Member of Parliament (MP)began hunger strike on 1 March 1981 and died on 5 May 1981 after 66 days without foodFrancis Hughes (25) Irish Republican Army (IRA)joined hunger strike on 15 March 1981 and died on 12 May 1981 after 59 days without foodRaymond McCreesh (24) Irish Republican Army (IRA)joined hunger strike on 22 March 1981 and died on 21 May 1981 after 61 days without foodPatsy O'Hara (23) Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)Joe McDonnell (30) Irish Republican Army (IRA)joined hunger strike on 8 May 1981 and died on 8 July 1981 after 61 days without foodMartin Hurson (29) Irish Republican Army (IRA)joined hunger strike on 28 May 1981 and died on 13 July 1981 after 46 days without foodKeven Lynch (25) Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)joined hunger strike on ? May 1981 and died on 1 August 1981 after 71 days without foodKieran Doherty (25) Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Teachta Dáil (TD; member of the Irish Parliament)joined hunger strike on 22 May 1981 and died on 2 August 1981 after 73 days without foodThomas McElwee (23) Irish Republican Army (IRA)joined hunger strike on 8 June 1981 and died on 8 August 1981 after 62 days without foodMichael Devine (27) Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)joined hunger strike on 22 June 1981 and died on 20 August 1981 after 60 days without food
29Why were they in prison? Bobby Sands IRA Possession of a firearm Francis Hughes IRA Various offences, including murder of a soldierRaymond McCreesh IRA Attempted murder, possession of a rifle, IRA membershipPatsy O’Hara INLA Possession of a hand grenadeJoe McDonnell IRA Possession of a firearmMartin Hurson IRA Attempted murder, involvement in explosions, IRA membershipKevin Lynch INLA Stealing shotguns, taking part in a punishment shootingKieran Doherty IRA Possession of firearms and explosives, hijackingThomas McElwee IRA ManslaughterMichael Devine INLA Theft and possession of firearms
32What was it like?You’re very sleepy and very, very tired and you’re sort of nodding off to sleep but something’s telling you to keep waking up.This was the thing that kept everybody going through the hunger strike in trying to live or last out as long as possible.I knew death was close but I wasn’t afraid to die - and it wasn’t any sort of courageous or glorious thing.I think death would have been a release.You can never feel that way again.It’s not like tiredness.It’s an absolute, total, mental and physical exhaustion.It’s literally like slipping into death.Laurence McKeown taken off hunger strike by his family on 6 Sept on the 70th day.
33Who was Bobby Sands?Mar. born Rathcoole, predominantly Protestant part of Belfast1972 Family moves to new Catholic estate because of Protestant intimidationJoins PIRAArrested & imprisoned for 4 years for arms possession1976 Arrested again after bomb attack on the BalmoralFurniture Company Dunmurry, followed by a gun-battle1977 Imprisoned for possession of a revolver from which bullets had beenfired at the police after the bombingNo evidence linking him with bomb attack1978 PRO for blanket protesters1979 Publishes short stories and poems in Republican Newsunder the pen-name ‘Marcella’, his sister’s name1980 Commandant of IRA in MazeNegotiates with authorities to no availMar. begins hunger strike9 Apr. elected MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone5 May dies on 66th day of hunger strike7 May 70, ,000 attend his funeral
34Why did Sands go on hunger strike? I am a political prisonerbecause I am a casualty of a perennial warthat is being fought betweenthe oppressed Irish people andan alien, oppressive, unwanted regimethat refuses to withdraw from our land.I believe and stand by theGod-given right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence, andthe right of any Irishman or womanto assert this right in armed revolution.That is why I am incarcerated, naked and tortured.Bobby Sands, writing on the first day of his hunger strike
37Why did Sands stand for election to Westminster? Great publicity potentialFermanagh & South Tyrone was winnableLate member an independent, sympathetic to hunger strikersUnionist opponent dour Fermanagh farmerAll other candidates opposed to Unionists withdrew
38What was the result of election? Victory for Bobby SandsTurnout 86.9%Sands 30,492 votesWest 29,046 votesMajority 1,500 votesClick on link below for video of BBC report on election*Worldwide publicity for Sinn Fein & IRAEncouraged other prisoners or supporters to standWestminster, August 1981:Owen Carron filled Sands’ seat standing asProxy Political Prisoner candidate (prisoners now unable to stand)Dáil Éireann, June 1981Kieran Doherty (h/strike; d. 2 Aug.) (Cavan-Monaghan); Paddy Agnew (Louth)But no change in government policyMargaret Thatcher, prime minister, adamantIntroduced legislation preventing prisoners standing for parliamentClick on link below for video of Mrs Thatcher on ‘crime is crime’*Mrs Thatcher said:We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime.Crime is crimeis crime,it is not political.* Requires internet connection
39What was the reaction to his death? British governmentMargaret Thatcher, Prime MinisterMr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to takehis own life. It was a choice that his organisation didnot allow to many of its victims.Humphrey Atkins, Secretary for State for Northern IrelandI regret this needless and pointless death.Nationalist/CatholicsRosaries & petrol bombsClick on link below for video of BBC report on reactions in Belfast** Requires internet connection
41of their discredited cause, the men of violence have chosen Faced with the failureof their discredited cause,the men of violence have chosenin recent months to playwhat may well be their last card.Margaret Thatcher after 4 deaths, May 1981
42Why did Margaret Thatcher remain adamant? Continued IRA violenceParticularly influenced by murder in Derry of Protestant woman census worker, married with 2 young children, during election campaign – shot in back of head.Ulster unionist opinion‘She thought that if she gave way on itthis would have a very large impact onthe Protestant population.’Jim Prior, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
43Ulster Unionist view of hunger strikers & IRA From 1981 pamphletSelf-InflictedAn Exposure of the H-Blocks Issueby Peter Robinson of the DUPThe bombing on 17 February 1978 killed 12 & badly burned many more with ahuge fireball.400 people, all Protestants and loyalists, were attending the annual dinner dance of theIrish Collie Club.
45What can be said for & against the views of Bobby Sands & Margaret Thatcher? ‘I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien ... regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.’Bobby Sands, writing on the first dayof his hunger strike, 1 March 1981‘We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime. Crime is crime, it is not political.’Margaret Thatcher, 21 April 1981
46What public support was there for the hunger strikers at home & abroad?
52Why did the hunger strikers refuse chance of settlement after 6th death? July 1981Government’s ‘Mountain Climber’ initiative offering concessions in writing, giving most of what had been demanded, was rejected.IRASome thought IRA wanted to extract the maximum propaganda advantage from this ‘conveyor belt of death’PrisonersAnything less than what their comrades had died forwould be betrayal
53We were committed to something. Unless someone was coming in and saying‘Right, you have your own clothes, you won’t do prison work, you have all your demands’,short of that we wouldn’t have entertained it.It was all or nothing at that stage.The fact that so many people had died made useven more determined.Laurence McKeown, Hunger striker, recalling discussions in July 1981
54Why did the hunger strikes stop on 3 October 1981? Tireless work of Fr Denis FaulFamily determination not to let sons die31 July – 26 Sept: 5 prisoners taken off hunger strike by familiesPaddy Quinn17 June: Quinn goes on hunger strike31 July: Quinn’s mother asks for medical intervention2 Aug: Quinn comes out of coma and says ‘Mummy, I’m sorry if I upset you.It’s good to be alive.’Only handful attend funeral of last hunger striker to die‘Red’ Mickey Devine, died 20 Aug. 1981Government even more willing to compromisePaddy Quinn
55How far did hunger strikers resent the intervention of their families? Laurence McKeown, whose mother ended his hunger strike on the 70th day.Interviewer How did you feel about your mother after she had taken you off?Laurence McKeownI didn’t feel any way different about her because I just knew that she had stood by me all that time anyway.I could understand her point of view.A number of people had made interventions.She wasn’t politically committed to my ideas but she was committed to me as a son.I certainly didn’t ever say anything to her that would have been hurtful.I think much was left unspoken.
56Why was the government more inclined to compromise? Change of NI Secretary, 13 September 1981Jim Prior replaced Humphrey AtkinsPrior impressed after visiting Liam McCloskeyMcCloskey on 45 day of hunger strike‘It had a profound effect on me. I expected to find someone who was very uptight and struggling and very uncomfortable.But this man seemed to be serenely quiet and contentwith himself and not in any particular pain.’
57What terms were offered & accepted? Series of partial concessionsannounced by Jim Prior, 6 Oct. 1981The concessions (* only partial gain for protesters)Prisoners to wear own clothes all the time50% remission of time lost through protests*Greater freedom of association between adjacent wings of the H-blocks*More visitsReview of definition of ‘prison work’*Defeat/tragedy?Almost same terms as on offer 3 months earlier, when only 6 had diedHad 4 men died needlessly?Prior too sensible to claim victory
58How did the hunger strikers feel when they gave up on 3 October 1981? Gerard Hodgkins, who at its end had been fasting for twenty days, had mixed emotions.The hunger strike had started out as a prison struggle for political status but it came to encapsulate the whole struggle for us. We believed that if we lost out on this one, we’d lost the war and everything that went with it. Everything we had sacrificed to date would have been in vain. We genuinely believed that we had to hold out. We hoped to salvage something.On one hand you felt relieved that it was over, that you weren’t going to die. You were relieved for your family. On the other hand, you felt guilty: that you’d actually ended the hunger strike and you hadn’t achieved what you set out to achieve. Although you were going to live, you had to live in the knowledge that there were ten men dead who had set out on the same journey. You wonder, ‘Have I betrayed them? Have I betrayed their families?’ I would still think about it even to this day.
59What were the consequences? Human costDeaths of hunger strikers and many othersIRA Brighton bomb, 16 October 1984Target was Margaret Thatcher; 5 people killedCloser collaboration between London & DublinStrengthen constitutional nationalism against Sinn FeinAnglo-Irish Agreement, 1985Watershed in Sinn Fein historyElection victories paved way for more political approach‘Armalite & ballot box strategy’1982 General election: Gerry Adams tookWest Belfast from the SDLPLater overtook SDLP in Northern IrelandWho here really believes that we can win the war through the ballot box?But will anyone here object if with a ballot box in this hand and an Armalite in this hand we take power?Danny MorrisonSinn Fein’s PRO, 1981
63Northern Ireland Assembly elections, 1998-2007 (108 seats) Rise of Sinn Feinat the expense of theSDLPDUPUUPAllianceOthersSDLPSinn Féin(2007)Seats wonVote share3630.1%1814.9%75.2%38.0%1615.2%2826.2%(2003)3025.6%2722.7%63.7%7.5%17.0%2423.5%(1998)2018.1421.25%6.5%98.67%21.9%17.63%Northern Ireland Assembly elections, (108 seats)
64‘The hunger strike was a magnificent achievement.’ Power-sharingExecutive & Assembly2007How far would you agree with the Northern Ireland prison official who said that‘The hunger strike was a magnificent achievement.’
65Historians’ verdictThe hunger strikes transformed the political context of the Northern Ireland problem.Now, republican prisoners appeared in the unfamiliar role of being prepared to accept suffering for their cause rather than simply inflicting suffering on its behalf.The mass turnouts at the prisoners’ funerals revealed that the standing of the prisoners in Catholic areas had risen dramatically and this was soon reflected in a novel development, an impressive Sinn Féin electoral intervention.By June 1983 Sinn Féin had obtained some 13.4% of the vote in the North which compared well with the SDLP’s 17.9%.In the 2007 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly Sinn Féin far outstripped the SDLP. They won 26.2% of the vote and 28 seats to the SDLP’s 15.2% of the vote and 16 seats.Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s number 2 and ex-IRA man, became Deputy leader of a new power-sharing Executive and Assembly, with a significant ‘Irish dimension.’However, Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom.Adapted from P. Bew & G. Gillespie, Northern Ireland. A Chronology of the Troubles