Essays on the History of the Irish Freedom Struggle
Martin Mulligan et al
Published by Resistance Books
1981, 160pp, ISBN 0909196141, Paperback
In 1981, 10 young men died on hunger strike in the H-blocks of Long Kesh prison near Belfast. Their heroic protest succeeded in drawing world attention to the plight of more than 500 republican prisoners in Long Kesh and Armagh women's prison who for four-and-a-half years had been resisting the efforts of the British government to categorise them as common criminals. And at the end of the hunger strike, it became clear that they had at least partially succeeded in winning back the “special category status” first won by hunger strike in 1972, and withdrawn in 1976.
Since 1921, the 800-year Irish freedom struggle has focussed on the gerrymander partition of the country and the institutionalisation of discrimination against the Catholic communities in the north-eastern six counties. The 10 martyrs, and the others who came close to death during the seven-month hunger strike campaign, were following in the proud tradition of past Irish patriots — like Ruairi O’Donovan Rossa, James Connolly, Thomas Ashe, and Terence MacSwiney — who had also resisted the efforts of the British to criminalise the Irish people’s struggle for freedom.
This book is dedicated to the courage of the hunger strikers. Several essays included here draw out the historical significance of their campaign and the mass movement that grew up in support of it. Others look at the nature of the loyalist-dominated northern statelet; the civil rights movement of 1968-73 and its links with the current upsurge; and various periods and events going back through the 800 years of Irish resistance to British domination.
Many of the essays contained here were first published in the Australian socialist newsweekly Direct Action (now replaced by Green Left Weekly). Also included are three essays by Bobby Sands — the man who launched the 1981 hunger strike and whose death shook the world.
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