Death of Hunger Striker Bobby Sands
After 66 days on hunger strike, IRA member, and since April 9 MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Bobby Sands died in Long Kesh Prison, surrounded by his family.
The deaths of Sands and nine other hunger strikers were in pursuit of ‘political status’ for IRA prisoners. Outside the prison there were many more victims of violence linked to the strike.
Ireland’s deadly cotillion of sectarian politics continued: Sands had been the victim of terror by so-called loyalists in his youth, his family threatened and displaced, his employment ended at gunpoint. He had reacted by joining the IRA and becoming involved in activities which would spark further retaliation and so on seemingly ad infinitum. Sands himself choreographed the hunger strike which claimed him as its first victim; others began their refusal of food at planned intervals to extend the publicity and impact of the action.
Eventually what seems to have been an unacknowledged compromise, a rare commodity in The Troubles , was negotiated by Jim Prior to halt the strike. And years later some involved in the conflict on both sides found the imagination and courage to shape what may be a long term solution, working with Westminster politicians. It is tragic that Sands, who in prison had discovered a skill with the written word and was viewed though only 27 when he died as capable enough to be the IRA’s officer commanding in the prison, should not have lived to be one of those driving the peace process .
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