Today marks the thirty-ninth anniversary of the death on hunger strike of IRA Volunteer, Bobby Sands MP.
Regardless of the passage of time the 1981 hunger strike in which ten young men laid down their lives over seven-months increases in historical significance and in relevance to contemporary Irish politics, inspiring a new generation in the struggle for complete Irish independence.
Many thanks to Liam Martin who sent us this link to a film captured on a home video camera his Grandmother Elizabeth McAree made of Bobby Sands’ funeral in May 1981 when Liam was just two years old. Although dark and shaky it captures something of the sombre mood of the time with scenes outside St Luke’s Chapel and of the cortege as it made its way through Lenadoon. Kieran Nugent, who began the blanket protest, can be seen in the film around the 4′ 20” mark. Elizabeth, originally from the Pound Loney in Belfast, was born in 1915, before partition, and died at the age of eight-four in 1999. This is the first time the film, now digitised, has been shown.
Here below is a link to a song written as a tribute to Bobby Sands by Julie from Glasgow who writes:
“Bobby Sands was a scéalaí / storyteller, poet and songwriter and his words and music have inspired me for years. I fell in love with ‘Back Home in Derry’ and ‘McIlhatton’ when I first heard them on the Christy Moore album ‘Ride On’ in 1984 and still sing these songs today. Bobby’s songs, music and poems beautifully depict places, people and times in such a lyrical and empathetic way that they really stir the emotions.
“Not only was Bobby Sands an artist but he was passionate about freedom, equality and justice and paid the ultimate price in his struggle to help his fellow man. In May 2006, which marked the 25th anniversary of Bobby’s untimely death, I had friends who were traveling from Glasgow to perform at some of the many commemoration events taking place across Ireland at that time. I remember feeling a sense of immense gratitude which I wanted to express for the pleasure he had given through his songs and music but also for the ultimate sacrifice he made for others. That’s why I wrote this song called ‘Thank You’ which is a song for Bobby Sands. The song was written back in 2006 but only recorded recently and I hope Bobby would have approved.”
Also, tonight North Belfast Sinn Féin at 7pm will launch a commemorative video in tribute to the hunger strikers. A night of music, poetry & reflection with Bobby’s comrades, alongside local musicians and republican activists. This is the link to use, beginning around 6.55pm.
These images of Bobby Sands below have recently been digitally enhanced by a West Belfast republican, using photographs of Bobby that were smuggled out of the Long Kesh cages in the 1970s and the 2019 discovery of probably the last photographs taken of Bobby in August 1976 by the French photographer Gérard Harlay just weeks before Bobby’s arrest.