Bobby Sands

From Academic Kids

Robert George Sands, commonly known as Bobby Sands (March 9, 1954May 5, 1981) was an Irish republican who died on hunger strike in Maze prison, Northern Ireland.

Bobby Sands was born in Rathcoole, Belfast, Northern Ireland and brought up in Abbots Cross, in north Belfast, having to move several times due to intimidation from loyalists. On leaving school, he became an apprentice coach-builder. In 1972 he joined the Provisional Irish Republican Army, but later that year he was interned and remained in custody without trial until 1976.

On his release, he returned to his family in Twinbrook in west Belfast where he became a community activist. He had been out of prison for only a year when he was arrested. Although the most serious charges against him were dismissed, he was convicted of possession of firearms in September 1977 and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment.

He served his prison term in one of the wings of the Maze Prison known, from their floor plans, as H-Blocks. In prison, Sands became a writer both of journalism and poetry which was published in the Irish republican newspaper An Phoblacht/Republican News. In late 1980 Sands was chosen as Officer Commanding IRA prisoners in the Maze prison.

There had been a series of protests organised by IRA prisoners who sought to be recognized as political prisoners and not subject to full prison regulations, starting with the 'blanket protest' in 1976. The 'dirty protest' in 1978 saw prisoners deliberately live in squalor by smearing excrement on the walls. There had been an earlier aborted hunger strike in autumn 1980.

The Second Hunger Strike started with Sands refusing food on 1 March 1981. Sands decided that other prisoners should join the strike at staggered intervals in order to maximise publicity with prisoners steadily deteriorating and dying successively over several months.

Shortly after the beginning of the strike, the independent Irish republican MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone died and precipitated a by-election. Sands was nominated as an anti-H-Block candidate, and won the seat on April 9, 1981 with 30,492 votes to 29,046 for the Unionist candidate Harry West.

Three weeks later, Sands died from starvation in the prison hospital. The announcement of his death prompted several days of riots in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. Over 75,000 people lined the route of his funeral. Sands would have been a member of parliament for but twenty-five days — one of the shortest terms in history — but, regardless of his imprisonment, as a member of Sinn Fein he would have refused to take the necessary oath to the Queen, and therefore would never have been an MP in fact.

Nine other members who were involved in the Hunger Strike also died shortly after Bobby Sands. Most Irish Republicans and IRA sympathizers regard Bobby Sands and the other nine men as being brave heroes who stood firm against the intransigence of the British Government, although to Unionists he remains a hate figure and an unsympathetic one even for centrists and moderate Nationalists.

The media coverage that surrounded the death of Bobby Sands resulted in a new surge of IRA activity, with the group obtaining many more members. It also prompted the Republican movement to move towards electoral politics, and indirectly paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement many years later.

Commemorations in other countries

IRA sympathizers in Hartford, Connecticut dedicated a monument to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers in 1997. The monument stands in a traffic circle known as "Bobby Sands Circle", at the bottom of Maple Avenue near Goodwin Park (link) (http://www.homestead.com/hartford/hungerstrikers.html).

The Longshoremen's Union announced a twenty-four-hour boycott of British ships.

The New Jersey State legislature voted 34-29 for a resolution honouring his 'courage and commitment.'

1,000 plus gathered in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral to hear Cardinal Cook offer a Mass of reconciliation for northern Ireland. Irish bars in the city were closed for two hours in mourning.

The street where the British Embassy is located in Tehran is named Bobby Sands Street (link) (http://larkspirit.com/hungerstrikes/bobby_sands_street.html).

In 2001 a memorial to Sands and the other hunger strikers was unveiled in Havana, Cuba (link) (http://archives.tcm.ie/breakingnews/2001/12/18/story33688.asp).

In Milan, 5,000 students burned the Union Jack and shouted 'Freedom for Ulster during a march.

In Ghent students invaded the British Consulate.

In Paris, thousands marched behind huge portraits of Sands, to chants of 'The IRA will conquer.'

The town of Le Mans announced it was naming a street after Sands.

The Hong Kong Standard said it was 'sad that successive British governments have failed to end the last of Europe's religious wars.'

The Hindustan Times said Mrs. Thatcher had allowed a fellow Member of Parliament to die of starvation, and incident which had never before occurred 'in a civilized country.'

In Oslo, demonstrators threw a balloon filled with tomato sauce at the Queen.

In India, Opposition members of the Upper House stood for a minute's silence in tribute.

In the Soviet Union, Pravda described it as 'another tragic page in the grim chronicle of oppression, discrimination, terror and violence' in Ireland.

Reference

External links

  • Hunger Strikes (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/troubles/hungerstrikes/) BBC History
  • Biography (http://larkspirit.com/hungerstrikes/bios/sands.html) from Irish Republican websitede:Bobby Sands

es:Bobby Sands pl:Robert Sands

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