Bobby Sands was an Irish Republican and IRA member who was imprisoned in Long Kesh (formally known as HM Prison Maze). In 1981, he began organising hunger strikes throughout the prison in order to protest the inhumane treatment to which the prisoners were subjected and to demand that the British government recognise all IRA prisoners as political prisoners. During the strike, Sands was elected as an MP on the “Anti H-Block /Armagh Political Prisoner” ticket. Three weeks later, before he could even take his oath, Sands died after 66 days of hunger strike. He was 27 years old. Nine other political prisoners died during the hunger strike: Francis Hughes (after 59 days), Patsy O’Hara (61 days), Raymond McCreesh (61 days), Joe McDonnell (61 days), Martin Hurson (46 days), Kevin Lynch (71 days), Kieran Doherty (73 days), Thomas McElwee (62 days), and Michael Devine (60 days). The following is an excerpt from Sands’ diary on the first day of the hunger strike which took his life. With many people around the world still fighting for their rights to independence and freedom from oppressive forces, the story of Bobby Sands and his fallen comrades serve as a reminder to the selfless sacrifice others have made in the pursuit of justice.
I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul.
My heart is very sore because I know that I have broken my poor mother's heart, and my home is struck with unbearable anxiety. But I have considered all the arguments and tried every means to avoid what has become the unavoidable; it has been forced upon me and my comrades by four and a half years of stark inhumanity.
I am a political prisoner. 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, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.
I believe and stand by the God-given right of the Irish nation to sovereign independence, and the right of any Irishman or woman to assert this right in armed revolution. That is why I am incarcerated, naked and tortured.
Foremost in my tortured mind is the thought that there can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign, oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically.
I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the 'risen people.'
There is no sensation today, no novelty that October 27th [The starting date of the original seven man hunger-strike] brought. The usual Screws were not working. The slobbers and would-be despots no doubt will be back again tomorrow, bright and early.
I wrote some more notes to the girls in Armagh today. There is so much I would like to say about them, about their courage, determination and unquenchable spirit of resistance. They are to be what Countess Markievicz, Anne Devlin, Mary Ann McCracken, Marie MacSwiney, Betsy Gray, and those other Irish heroines are to us all. And, of course, I think of Ann Parker, Laura Crawford, Rosemary Bleakeley, and I'm ashamed to say I cannot remember all their sacred names.
Mass was solemn, the lads as ever brilliant. I ate the statutory weekly bit of fruit last night. As fate had it, it was an orange, and the final irony, it was bitter. The food is being left at the door. My portions, as expected, are quite larger than usual, or those which my cell-mate Malachy is getting.